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Full text of "Mr. Bryant's mistake"

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ME. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 



C. f. I 






ME. BEYANT'S MISTAKE 



BY 

KATHAEINE WYLDE 

AUTHOR OF 'A DREAMER,' ' AN ILL-RERULATED MIND,' ETC. 




IN THREE VOLUMES— VOL. I 



LONDON 

RICHAED BENTLEY & SON, NEW BURLINGTON ST. 

^ailtsfjers in ©rtiinarp to f&er fHajtstg t})t ©uem 

1890 



All rights reserved 



4 









' Spread not into boundless expansions either of designs or desires. 
Hang early plummets upon the heels of pride, and let ambition 
have but an epicycle and narrow circuit in thee. Think not thy 
o^\^l shadow longer than that of others, nor delight to take the 
altitude of thyself. ' 



CONTENTS 



PART I 

PAGE 

Mary Smith 1 



PAET II 

The Ixsane Root .43 

PAET III 

III Weeds Grow Apace 151 

PAET lY 

Bascl\nte . . . . . . . .253 



PAET I 
MARY SMITH 



VOL. 1 



ME. BEYANT'S MISTAKE 



CHAPTER I 

When a man performs, and that with a willing 
mind and a generous glow in his soul, a mag- 
nanimous action which is above the level of his 
habit, various reflections arise in the mind of a 
spectator. He considers whether it is the man's 
best self which has done the deed ; and this 
suggests the further inquiry whether one's best self 
is one's real self. The enthusiast will answer the 
question affirmatively, and it may be with justice. 
There is so much misfortune in all wrong-doing ! 
so much unwillingness and coercion and extraneous 
influence of every kind ! Let the man for once 
have fair play, a free field, and no favour — let him 
be himself, in short — and behold the magnanimous 
action. The soberer critic will find more fruit 
m the inquiry. What effect does the unwonted 
generosity have on the man's after life ? Is it 



4 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

sanctifying and ennobling, lifting his subsequent 
ideals into harmony with it ? or does it become 
to him a blunder and a disaster, — a tone which 
he cannot silence, but which is discordant with 
the unpretentious melody of his career, turning the 
whole to failure and confusion ? And if so, would 
the magnanimous action have better been omitted ? 
Even if it had been the man's best self, the man's 
real self, acting perhaps for one only time in his 
life, that was responsible for it ? 

Such questions cannot be decided ; they can only 
be discussed. At least, we perceive that people are 
different ; and the old saying remains true in every 
age, that one man's meat is another man's poison. 

In Mr. Bryant's case the action's motive was 
complicated by love. He certainly would not have 
done what he did, if he had not been very deeply 
and very sincerely in love. Love, we know, is blind, 
and it is quite possible that Mr. Bryant did not 
see at all what a magnanimous thing he was doing, 
nor consider the difficulty there would be in tuning 
the rest of his life to harmonise with it. He 
w^as a country curate, prematurely widowed. 
His vicar was not surprised when one day he 
announced very calmly that he was about to give 
his baby Georgina a stepmother. The vicar con- 
gratulated him, and of course asked a few particulars 
about the bride. She was Mrs. Grant, a fair young 



MARY SMITH 5 

widow, who for some mouths had been resident 
in the neighbourhood, but in the greatest possible 
retirement. And as the conversation proceeded, 
Mr. Bryant said further that Mrs. Grant's first mar- 
riage had been ' singularly unfortunate.' The vicar, 
smelling a rat, but not sufficiently intimate with his 
curate to care to chase it, merely inquired if he had 
known the lady long ; and Mr. Bryant replied, Oh 
yes ; all his life ; her and all her family ; in fact, had 
wished to marry her long ago. And he sighed and 
wished he had done so. The vicar said it all seemed 
very suitable ; and concluded that his curate, 
who was no fool, and not quite a gentleman — 
son of a retired grocer, in fact, as every one was 
aware — knew what he was about. Yet, considering 
that there was some mystery about Mrs. Grant 
or the deceased Mr. Grant, the vicar was not 
altogether sorry that the wedding was postponed 
till Mr. Bryant had moved on to a better 
curacy in a dull part of London ; where no one 
happened to inquire into the young couple's 
previous history, or to realise that they were 
only just married, and that the baby was Mrs. 
Bryant's stepdaughter ; or to discover that the 
gentle, girlish creature had herself been married 
before, and had a little child of her own, living 
for the present with an aunt at Faverton Farm, 
far down in the country. 



6 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

We go back to the day after the wedding, 
when the pair are sitting together in a small and 
incommodious sitting-room of a private hotel at 
Brighton. I beg you to observe that Edward 
Bryant is a most worthy and conscientious clergy- 
man, and to remember that he is very much in 
love with his wife. The golden-haired Emma is ex- 
tremely pretty ; very gentle, fragile, and obedient ; 
a little sad too, and probably less enamoured 
than he. 

' And now, my dearest,' Mr. Bryant was saying, 
holding her hand in his and playing with her 
thin fingers, ' I will tell you the arrangement I have 
made for Mary.' He stammered a little over the 
remark, much to his own vexation ; and Mrs. 
Bryant started and coloured. ' You see, Emma,' 
he went on rather pompously, ' a clergyman's 
position is important. His home life and the 
lives of those belonging to him will be narrowly 
inspected : properly so.' 

' Yes, Ned,' said Emma, with a little sigh, which 
seemed to vex him. 

' My dear, it is inevitable ; it is better to recog- 
nise it. There is no use in trying to deceive our- 
selves, or each other.' Poor Emma, who had always 
been in the habit of nourishing illusions, shivered. 
' There is another thing,' continued her husband ; 
' clergymen and their wives, as a rule, belong to 



MAR Y SMITH 7 

the highest classes. They get a certain prestige 
from their birth. Now you and I, Emma, have 
not that advantage. Oh, it doesn't matter/ he said 
with some concealed irritation, answering a gentle 
reply of hers ; ' rank is of less moment than it was- 
People will be civil enough to us if they see we have 
brains and money, and Christian principles.' He 
paused ; put his hands in his pockets, and seemed 
rather embarrassed. ' All I mean is — Emma, I must 
speak plainly to you for once. You will trust me 
that I know best about the matter, as you promised, 
won't you ? Emma, the past — entirely innocent, my 
poor love, on your part, beyond measure culpable 
on the part of others — is happily over and done 
with. For all our sakes, it must now be com- 
pletely obliterated and forgotten.' 

'Oh, Edward! how?' 

' Circumstances have been kind to us, Emma. 
We are going among total strangers, who need 
never know more of you than that you are my 
wife. We keep silence about the rest. Even to 
each other. Do you see ? ' Emma, very pale, sat up 
straight, lookinf]^ out at the sea; her hands motionless 
in her lap. Was it possible what he was saying, that 
the whole miserable history of her first marriage, of 
her credulous folly and that other's dastardly decep- 
tion, could be wiped out ? Could she really hold up 
her head again not merely as his wife, but as his 



8 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

untainted, unsuspected wife, who would excite neither 
remark, pity, nor censure ? 

' Ned,' said Emma, clasping her hands and looking 
up in his eyes, ' you are forgetting the child. Ned, 
Ned, what do you mean ? You haven't married the 
old Emma Eandle. I wish you had ! I wish you had ! 
You have married Emma Grant — a widow. Oh, Ned ! 
And Mary is her child. You promised you'd be 
good to my poor little child. It was for her sake 
I married you ! ' The last words were impulsive 
and not meant for him. He frowned lightly. 

' Yes, dear, yes. What you suggest might be 
possible if we were persons of the rank to which the 
clergy usually belong. Persons of that rank are above 
suspicion. But a farmer's daughter will be scrutinised, 
you may be sure ; and a grocer's son might be sup- 
posed less particular on certain points than the son 
of a marquis. We should be asked questions about 
your late husband. There would be gossip. The 
matter would come out. How could we make your 
perfect simplicity and innocence understood, my 
poor love ? Emma, you must guess what the unkind 
world would say. It would ruin your comfort — our 
whole career. No, my love, we are going among 
strangers. Silence is possible, and silence is best' 
' But, Edward — the child ! Unless you mean,' 
said the young wife timidly, ' that she is to think 
you are her real own papa.' 



MAR V SMITH 9 

The clergyman started up and walked to the 
window, for Emma had made him angry. ' My dear/ 
he said, gently but firmly, ' I promised to provide 
for that poor child's welfare — for her food, her keep, 
schooling, a future provision, — all she can reasonably 
require, but I cannot undertake to adopt her as my 
daughter, nor — at present — to have her in my house/ 
_ ' Oh, Edward, you promised ! ' she sobbed, go- 
ing to him and drawing his arm round her ; ' oh, 
you cannot be so cruel I ' 

* No, I didn't promise that, my love. Listen now. 
Your brother is going to keep her. Sarah wishes 
it. She is the same age as little Nannie, you know, 
and they will grow up as twins. Sarah has arranged 
a parentage for her which has been already accepted. 
Not a soul at Eaverton knows she has anything to 
do with you, or is surprised by her presence at the 
farm ; I have already handed them a fine lump of 
money for her. Smith, — that is the name they have 
given her ; daughter of your cousin Matilda, whom 
Sarah knew so well in service. Mrs. Smith, you 
know, is dead. It is all arranged and accepted, Emma. 
It is best in every way not to reopen the question.' 

* But it is not true ! ' said the astounded Emma. 

' My dearest, this little girl's presence in the world 
at all will necessitate some economy of the truth/ 
' Let me have her, Edward, and call her Smith ! ' 
' My love, it is out of the question. The secret 



lo MR. Bryant's mistake 

would leak out. Besides, she will be infinitely 
happier in your brother's sphere than in the higher 
one we should have to drag her into, where, if by 
some chance her birth was discovered, it would be 
terrible for you and for herself Now she will 
have a happy home, a twin sister, and an undisputed 
position, all without injuring or defrauding any one.' 

'I am defrauded,' said Emma, with simple dignity, 
quite unexpected from her. ' She is my child, and 
you are going to rob me of her.' There was further argu- 
ment, and I am sorry to say they grew rather angry 
with each other, and I think with justice on both sides. 

But of course Emma eventually submitted. Her 
nature was not one to be victorious in combats. 
She had all her life been in the habit of obedi- 
ence — obedience generally, alas ! to the wrong 
person. And when she had got herself into such 
a dreadful position, Emma felt that to refuse 
obedience to one so nobly generous as Mr. Bryant 
was impossible for more reasons than that he 
had a strong will and she a weak one. Besides, 
a conspiracy had been formed against Emma. Mr. 
Bryant's plan about Mary had been designed a good 
many months ago, in concert with his brother-in- 
law, who cared more for saving the reputation of his 
highly respectable family than for anything else. 
The infant had been taken from its mother at once ; 
it had seemed to her as difficult to recover posses- 



MARY SMITH ii 

sion of it as to steal the little Xannie, who was Sarah 
Randle's own. Emma had believed that Edward 
would establish her claim to the mythical Mrs. Smith's 
baby. He refused : how could slic set about it, who 
was by nature destitute of courage and who always 
did what she was told ? Of course she submitted ; 
and her husband was kind and caressing ; and 
promised she should visit Mary whenever she 
chose, and talk about her as much as ever she 
liked, pro\dded always she called her Mary Smith. 
But the infant was hardly ever mentioned. Instinct 
kept Emma silent. She felt that in her husband's 
love and pity there was little sympathy: — little com- 
prehension of her mere maternal longing; none of the 
feebly regretful tenderness with which she still looked 
back on a dream, true while it had lasted, and from 
which the awakening alone had been bitter. 

For poor Emma had loved, not wisely, nor even 
nobly, but too well ; and she had entirely believed 
at the time, and, to Mr. Grant's own astonished 
embarrassment, would have believed to the end, that 
the silly formality with which he had beguiled her 
was a legal marriage, to be kept secret because he 
was a gentleman and she only a farmer's daughter ; 
and for the three or four months that he had been with 
her, she had been blissfully, radiantly happy. Then 
he had gone away, and very soon afterwards came 
the news that he had been drowned on his way to 



12 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

America. A lawyer had come to tell her about it, 
and had explained to her with brutal plainness her 
real position. He had put her in possession of the 
money — no very great sum — which Mr. Grant had. 
left her ; and the whole episode was ended. Emma, 
worse than widowed, had fled weeping to her brothers ; 
who were furious of course, though they helped and 
protected her to the best of their ability ; and by 
ingenious disguises, subterfuges, and feigned names 
they saved her reputation better than she had thought 
possible or even desirable. But Mr. Bryant 
alone was kind to her, and did not temper his 
advice and assistance with scolding. Long ago, 
when he had been only an aspiring and scholarly 
young grocer with a speculative father, she had 
disdained his pretensions to her hand. But the 
tables were turned now, and though she was not in 
love with him, nor pretended to be so, it did not take 
much persuading to induce her to accept the love 
and protection, the haven of rest and restoration to 
respectability, which he offered her. 

Mr. Bryant was soon as happy as a victorious 
man has a right to be. He became immersed in 
sermons and in parish work ; while Emma did her 
somewhat unsuccessful best in the Sunday School, 
and tried to like the vicar's wife, and the genteel 
persons whom she occasionally met at the vicar's 
dinner-table. She was very kind to little Georgie, 



MARY SMITH 13 

and only cried for her own banished baby in private. 
Unfortunately, Mr. Bryant surprised her at that 
amusement once or twice. Emma, though good and 
dutiful, and always sweet and dear, had never been 
quite, the same since he had refused to bring Mary 
home. Mr. Bryant was victorious and happy; but 
always there was in his mind a secret misgiving 
about that superfluous infant. 



CHAPTEE II 

' When Emma's wed to the parson she'll be an ob- 
ject of pride to the family after all,' said Ann Eandle, 
wife of Jim, to Sarah, wife of Benjamin, as she 
put the stranger child to bed ; for the Jim Eandles 
were poor, and Ann was glad to help her sister- 
in-law in nursery and household matters, 'for a 
consideration.' 

But Sarah, who had once been maid to Lady 
Katharine Leicester, and was the pink of propriety, 
answered sternly, 'Nor me, nor Ben, we'll never 
boast not of Emma for none of her qualities, not 
if she got to be queen of the country. And, to 
tell you the truth, Ann, in confidence, Ben can't 
abide that there Ned Bryant, and if he marries 
Emma, you and me'll have to manage so they shan't 
be comincr here often and remindino- us of all this 



14 MR, BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

bother like Emma does ; and stirring Ben's bile up 
like Ned Bryant can't help doing ; and taking airs 
upon themselves like Emma has tried once or twice 
with me already, as if she were gentry, and not a 
scum as I wouldn't touch my dress upon, if it 
weren't for the family credit.' 

' Yo're 'ard upon Emma/ said Ann ; ' if you'd 
been brought up like Emma was, and mey too, with 
no good mother to teach you your dooty, maybey 
you'd have blundered too, and folks 'ud have called 
you a scum. Though maybey your moderate face 
might have saved you. It isn't every young woman 
with looks as can bring themselves up respectable as 
I have done ; and Emma wasn't never so clever as 
some. A motherless girl 'ud need have every 
advantage if she's to keep straight.' 

About two months after the Bryant marriage, 
however, it was decided that a family meeting must 
be held to admit Edward Bryant as brother-in-law, 
and to reinstate Emma in some sort of favour. No 
one looked forward to the event with any pleasure, 
except Ann, who loved scenes ; and poor Emma 
herself, who was to see her child, almost literally 
for the first time. 

And what a dull, stiff, awkward dinner it proved 
at the farmhouse ! The women were, it cannot be 
denied, a little awed by Emma's elegant clothes and 
the refined manner she was acquiring. But her 



MARY SMITH 15 

brothers did not seem to have anything to say, and 
Mr. Bryant sat silent and ill at ease, as he was apt 
to feel nowadays when thrown back into vulgar 
society. And Sarah, who was anxious to scold, 
reproved Emma for not having brought Georgina. 

'A stepmother had ought to be so careful,' said 
the farmer's wife ; ' the servants 'ill be setting her 
mind against you if you deny her innocent pleasures 
because she'd be a trouble to you.' 

' Oh no, no trouble,' said Emma, who had left 
the child at home by her husband's wdsh. 

' My dear, what's the good of saying that ? Don't 
I know other folk's children is bound to be a trouble ? ' 
said Sarah ; and Ann cried out — 

' La, sister, how stoopid you are ! ' but not before 
Emma's sad heart had exclaimed silently, ' They 
think my Mary a trouble.' 

' Mayn't I see the children, Sarah?' asked Emma 
tremulously, meaning of course one child only : 
Mary Smith, who was a trouble. 

The elder scions of the farmer's family were 
produced, boys and girls of various ages, all with 
hair beautifully oiled and new clothes. Emma 
admired them and wished they would not stare so, 
and Mr. Bryant gave them sixpences. And then 
every one felt uncomfortable, when, in a very low 
tone, Emma asked for the little ones. 

• Ann took the little ones up to her house for 



i6 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

me,' said Sarah ; ' if you like, Emma, you can walk 
up. I thought maybe they'd vex Mr. Bryant with 
crying.' The allusion seemed too pointed, and Emma 
turned scarlet as she asked nervously — 

' How far is it, Ann ? ' for by this time it was 
raining and she was looking wofuUy tired. 

' About a mile and a quarter over the fields ; 
but they are awful muddy for sidespring boots 
like yours.' 

' Oh, Ann, I don't believe I can do it ! ' cried the 
poor mother, bursting into tears ; ' whatever did you 
take her away there for ? ' 

Sarah saw the grand brother-in-law's involuntary 
frown at Emma's sob, and thought it necessary to 
recall the girl to the exigencies of her position. 

' We didn't suppose as Mr. Bryant would care 
about seeing Matilda Smith's orphan,' she said 
severely ; and when Mr. Bryant frowned again at 
her tasteless stupidity, she thought he was frowning 
at Emma. 

' Matilda Smith ! ' cried the outraged mother, 
indignant through her tears. Then she appealed to 
her husband. ' Ned, won't you speak up for me ? 
Won't you tell them they must bring my baby for 
me to see ? ' 

Terrible ! Every one shuddered. The secret 
they had all guarded so religiously was obviously 
not to be trusted with her. And there was 



MAR V SMITH 17 

that precocious little Alick, Ann's eldest, who 
looked all eyes, listening with all his might, and 
staring and wondering, and treasuring it all up in 
his clever little mind 1 But Mr. Bryant's chivalry 
was equal to the occasion. He would not reproach 
her 710W ; and snubbing Sarah was pleasant. 

' I will walk over with you, my love,' he said 
kindly, taking her hand ; * a mile and a half is not far. 
Don't cry, my dearest ; don't cry.' So the husband 
and wife went together and Emma was comforted. 
Dear Edward was still the only person who was 
kind to her. Surely some day he would let her 
bring the poor innocent child home, away from 
these women who thought her a trouble ! Mr. Bryant 
was certainly making no resolve of the sort. 

Sarah's baby and 'Matilda Smith's' could have 
passed very well for twins ; they were not unlike, and 
Nannie Randle, though three weeks the elder, was 
the smaller child of the two. Little Mary was the 
prettier, and Emma, divining her own by instinct, 
darted at her at once and hugged her to her de- 
frauded bosom. No, she had never kissed Georgina 
like that. Edward Bryant noticed the difference at 
once; an insane jealousy of the child possessed him. 
Emma would never be wholly his while the crea- 
ture lived ; no, though she bore him children and 
clasped them to her breast with that smile she 
could never bend on Georgina. Good heavens ! 

VOL. I 2 



1 8 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

could it be possible that she might never love 
his children so much as this wretched fatherless 
babe ? It needed all his self-command to endure 
patiently the sight of his wife rocking her infant 
and crooning over it with all the arts which 
nature teaches a mother. But he managed it. 
He even smiled once at the child, and touched 
its cheek with his finger. After that it was easy 
to bend over his wife, the dear Emma of his love, 
and kiss her golden hair and dewy eyes. 

'Dearest Edward!' she murmured; 'oh, you are 
good to me ! I did not expect to be so happy to-day.' 

But he was saying to himself, ' I wish to good- 
ness I could prevent her from ever coming here 
again.' 

Emma, however, never received reprimand for 
daring to use the expression ' my baby.' That Ma- 
donna look of hers had awed her husband, and the 
subject of the child was simply dropped as some- 
thing disagreeable. Weeks passed on ; Mr. Bryant 
did not suggest that Emma should visit Mary again ; 
and Emma herself, though the words were for ever 
trembling on her tongue, lacked courage to speak 
the request. Mary Smith stood between them like 
a spectre. Emma was becoming miserable under 
the conviction that she was neglecting her poor 
child, and Mr. Bryant was ill at ease, and could 
not see her caressing Georgina without reading a 



MAR Y SMITH 19 

reproach in her wistful tenderness. He began 
to wish he had arranged matters differently, but 
it would not be easy to make changes now ; and 
indulged repugnance to speaking of the infant 
had deepened, it seemed, into sheer impossibility. 

One day a letter came to Emma from her old 
home. It was in Ann's sprawling and ill -spelt 
writing, and on the outside was scribbled, ' Burn 
this for infection.' What a mysterious and alarming 
direction ! Mr. Bryant was always tempted to have 
the first reading of Emma's letters ; he continually 
dreaded for her some agitation about Mary Smith. 
To-day he broke the seal. 

* My dearest Sister-in-law — I hope this finds 
you well, has it leaves mey. They have illness at 
the Farm. I'm going to nurse the children and 
shan't come home for a while, being its scarlet, 
and Alick mustn't get it. He's an ailing body. 
Sarah is dreadful bad and two of the children. 
Maybe it's Mary. I'll nurse her like my own. 
Good-bye my dear. I'm fond of Mary. — Your 
loving Ann.' 

Mr. Bryant heard Emma descending the stair- 
case leading Georgie by the hand. How pretty they 
looked as they came in ! A lady surely and a lady's 
child. The ill-spelt scrawl from the loving sister 
Ann annoyed him. He thrust it into his breast- 



20 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

pocket to think it over. Oh, that child ! that 
child ! 

It crossed Mr. Bryant's mind that if the fever 
were to remove Mary Smith, it might be release 
from a good deal of embarrassment. But no ! that 
was an un - Christian thought. To desire any 
one's death was, according to New Testament 
principles, to be a murderer. Mr. Bryant conjured 
a prayer to his lips that the wicked thought, and 
all other wicked thoughts, might be cast out of 
his heart. I hope it is understood that Mr. Bryant 
was no sinner. He was only trying to act with 
prudence. He never even economised the truth 
unless it was necessary. If he were trying to 
gather figs off thistles he was not the first, nor will 
he be the last, who has devoted much energy to that 
seldom profitable branch of agriculture. And this 
morning Mr. Bryant soon felt more cheerful. For 
though he had read and concealed the letter by a 
sudden impulse, he could now see it had been inspira- 
tion. For of course he must consider his wife's wel- 
fare. She must on no account, in her present delicate 
health, go near infection ; she must be spared anxiety 
if possible. He would himself go down and see how 
the case really stood with Mary Smith. 

When Mr. Bryant arrived at Faverton, the 
farmhouse was in a state of sad confusion, for Mrs. 
Kandle was the person who usually kept everything 



MARY SMITH 21 

going. The clergyman was received in the spirit 
of the remark, ' To see the nakedness of the land 
ye are come.' 

' You'd best go and feed at the public,' growled 
the farmer, who sat in the corner, his head buried 
in his hands and much depressed by the doctor's 
unfavourable opinion of his wife ; ' we ain't got 
nothing here fit for a genelman.' 

Mr. Bryant answered temperately that he had 
not come for dinner. 

' Then I'd like to know what you have come 
for ? ' shouted Eandle ; and for the life of him Mr. 
Bryant could not at once begin about Mary, but 
made supererogatory inquiries for Sarah, which irri- 
tated his brother-in-law yet more. Happily Ann 
appeared, and averted further quarrelling. 

A clever, fluent woman was Ann Eandle, and very 
anxious to prove her own importance. Indeed she 
had attained to a higher position in the family than 
was warranted by her mere marriage with Jim, 
who had picked her up (and been called a fool 
for his pains) in a fishing village of the next 
county, whither he had been sent by Sir Charles 
Leicester on a mission to his property there. 
Ann was delighted to see Mr. Bryant ; as yet 
she had not had direct dealing with him, and 
she was anxious he should not regard her as a 
cipher. 



22 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

She sent the farmer to his wife, and bade her 
own husband get out to his work; then sat down 
to cold beef and beer, and begged the unwilling 
clergyman to join her. 

' I am afraid poor Emma was much topsy-turvied 
by my letter,' said Mrs. Jim. Mr. Bryant drew a 
chair to the table and sat down by the important 
woman's side. 

' To tell the truth, Ann, Emma has not yet seen 
your letter. When I understood what serious 
news it contained, I dreaded its effect upon her, 
and wished to spare her all needless anxiety. 
I trust that poor child is recovering.' It was 
disconcerting to the correct Mr. Bryant that Ann 
Eandle put her elbows on the table, leaned over 
as close as possible to him, stared at him hard, and 
then winked. He looked away from such vulgar 
conduct. Then Ann pulled a long face, cast her 
eyes up to heaven, nodded twice or thrice, and said 
with a sigh — 

' Mary Smith, that desolate orphan in what we 
are all interested, is very ill ; and her cousin Nannie 
too. I'm a plain-spoken woman, Mr. Bryant,' she 
went on, ' and I never find it prospers to be any- 
thing else. When Jim asked me to marry him, 
" Ann," says he, " will you have me ? " — " Jim," says 
I, " I'll have you ; for you comes to mey spaking 
the truth, and that is what I like. You ain't 



MARY SMITH 23 

rich and you ain't so clever as some, and I don't 
say I'd be spaking the truth if I called you 
handsome ; but I beheve you are honest, and the 
truth is all I care for." I'm a very truthful woman, 
Mr. Bryant, and I take it convenient when folks 
spake the truth to mey.' 

' Quite so,' replied Mr. Bryant, wondering why 
she winked at him again. 

Then Ann leaned forward and whispered with 
awful solemnity, ' Mr. Edward Bryant, sir, is it 
truth to say you hoipe Mary Smith is better ? ' 

Mr. Bryant quite jumped. But he answered 
calmly, ' I do not desire suffering for the innocent 
child, Mrs. Handle.' Ann nodded and sighed again. 

' Poor Mary's a cumbrance,' she said, ' and that's 
the plain truth. " Jim," says I, " mark my words ; 
Sarah will feel that babe a cumbrance." — " So would 
yo, Ann," says he. " No," says I ; " my mother's 
heart is large enough for the stranger. I'm an excep- 
tionable woman ; but Sarah will want to be rid of 
her in six months." ' 

* Do you mean,' asked Mr. Bryant in some anxiety, 
' that Ben and Sarah are repenting of their engage- 
ment ? ' 

' I heard 'em saying not once nor twice lately, 
and not jesting neither, — you ask 'em yourself, Mr. 
Bryant, — "Emma '11 have to take the child herself, 
and we'll give parson back his money." ' 



24 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

' Out of the question/ said the clergyman, calmly. 

*I'm sorry for Mary to feel a cumbrance,' ob- 
served Ann. 

' Perhaps you want the money ? You can arrange 
that with Sarah if you choose. I don't care a straw 
which of you keeps the child, so she is properly cared 
for.' 

' Ay, money 'd be a convenience to mey,' said Ann 
Eandle, ' but law, Jim wouldn't do with the child. 
She's a cumbrance to Sarah, and to mey, and most 
of all to you, Mr. Bryant, if we spake gospel truth 
for once in our lives.' He shrugged his shoulders 
wearily. 

' Well, we have to put up with many encum- 
brances. I think I have materially lightened this 
one for the child's foster parents.' 

' Maybey she'll die of the fever,' said Ann. 

' That is as God pleases.' 

' I say, if I'm to spake the truth, Mr. Bryant, 
I hope she may. So you say too, I suppose, when 
yo spake the truth.' 

' It is as God pleases,' repeated Mr. Bryant, 
annoyed and rising. 

' She's very ill,' continued Ann ; ' Mary Smith is 
mry ill. The doctor he says Nannie may recover, 
but the adopted child with her weak constitootion 
is like to die. His orders is strict, Mr. Bryant, — 
very fast orders ; hard to carry out when the nurse 



MAR V SMITH 25 

volertory and unpaid too, has three patients at once. 
Mary Smith the orphan is the worst of the three. 
Sarah may get up again after weeks of illness. 
Nannie may be crowing in a fortnight, but I doubt 
that after a scrap of carelessness, a haccident with 
me, a lateness in giving medicine, or such like, Mary 
Smith's spirit will go to join her poor mother 
Matilda in heaven.' 

Mr. Bryant, standing with his back to the woman, 
was trembling all over, and cold beads of perspiration 
hung on his forehead. It was one of the most 
terrible moments of his life ; for with all his horror 
at the suggestion, as he imagined Ann intended it, 
he could not help feeling that the consummation 
were one devoutly to be wished. He turned round 
and faced his sister-in-law, his face ghastly and his 
lips twitching. 

' You are a wicked woman, Ann Randle. God 
forgive you. Let me hear not one other word in 
this strain, if you do not wish to bring a curse upon 
us all.' But he had misunderstood her. Ann 
stared at him in astonishment ; then uttered a 
cry of horror, backing from him in disgust. 

* In God's name, Mr. Bryant, whatever maggot 
has got into your head ! Any one 'ud think you'd 
been wishing I'd neglect the pretty dear ! Your 
taking me up so, Mr. Bryant, shows what has been 
running in your mind, for shame to you. Poor, 



26 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

poor dear! I said right when I said she was a 
cumbrance/ 

Mr. Bryant with a shudder sank into a chair and 
covered his face with his hand. In his bewilder- 
ment he really could not remember how the con- 
versation had gone up to this point. His impression 
had been that Ann was suggesting her willingness 
(for a consideration, no doubt) to relieve him 
effectually of the burden of Mary Smith. But 
perhaps the odious thought, as she said, had been 
in his brain, not in hers. He remained silent, 
mentally and physically shaken, while this dreadful 
woman chattered on, positively chattered, over the 
grave of the Satanic suggestion. 

' You have no understanding of the female nature, 
Mr. Bryant. I daresay now, if it had to be done, 
you could do it yourself quiet somehow and make 
no bones about it, like a many doctors do with 
badly -made infants. But a woman has to be 
desperate afore she could harm a pretty dear. Not 
Emma who bore her, nor Sarah who suckled her, 
nor mey who've only washed and dressed her times, 
we couldn't hurt Mary Smith. You'll never get 
one of us to help you off with your cumbrance 
that way, Mr. Bryant, and you needn't think it.' 

'Let me see the child and go,' said Mr. Bryant, 
rising at last ; ' I will bring Emma here. I no 
longer feel confidence in you.' 



MAR V SMITH 27 

And then Mrs. Eandle nodded her head again 
mysteriously, lea\dng her resentment ; and tapping 
her nose, she whispered after a moment, ' Now, 
Mr. Bryant, if I w^as you, I ivoiddnt bring Emma 
here. If you was a clever woman like mey, and 
it was worth my while, maybey yo'd find a hinnicent 
way of doing the business, less stoopid than your 
manly murdering sort of notion.' 

*I don't know what you mean, woman,' said the 
clergyman angrily ; ' let me see the child and go.' 

With her finger on her lip, and stepping 
noisily on tiptoe, Ann Eandle led him through 
the silent house, past the room where Sarah was 
talking to her husband in the loud incoherence of 
delirium. Ghastly that grating voice sounded to 
Mr. Bryant's excited nerves, as it floated out on 
the sunny fragrance of the breeze-blown staircase, 
which was lighted by lattice windows, open now 
to the scent of jasmine and honeysuckle. He fol- 
lowed his guide silently to the nursery. The older 
children had all been turned out ; only the two 
cradles stood there side by side, a sick baby in each. 
One little cot was of the herceaunette pattern, with 
white curtains of rough lace and a silk patchwork 
quilt ; the other, a mere straw cottage affair, with- 
out drapery, and w^ith bedclothes not at the moment 
very clean, and absolutely without decorations. 
Emma's child ; Mr. Bryant felt the contrast. But 



28 

after a moment he doubted whether the difference 
in the cots were not after all accidental ; for the 
flushed tossing child in the straw cradle did not 
look at all like the Mary Smith at the point of 
death whom Mr. Bryant had expected to see. On 
the other hand, the white, still, wasted little piece 
of mortality under the white curtains appeared, 
to Mr. Bryant's bewildered eye, unnatural, even 
moribund. 

' Which is which ? ' asked the clergyman. 

' Just so, sir,' replied Ann Eandle ; ' which is 
which ? ' 

Mr. Bryant's heart came into his mouth, and he 
did not repeat the question. 



CHAPTEE III 

On their return to the parlour they met the farmer, 
who had descended from his wife's sick-chamber, 
and was much upset by grief and alarm. It was 
time for Mr. Bryant to return to the station, but 
he lingered ; unaccountably, it seemed to Eandle. 

* The child is said to be dying,' said the clergy- 
man, abruptly. 

' Let all the children die,' returned the farmer, 
peevish at this interruption to his grief about Sarah. 



MARY SMITH 219 

* La ! ' cried Ann, ' that ain't the talk to make 
your wife better. You men care nought about your 
children. You scarce know the one from the 
tother.' 

' What child's dying ? ' asked Eandle, turning 
on her savagely. 

' La now, Mr. Benjamin, do be patient. It ain't 
your Nannie is dying. It's the orphan, Mary 
Smith.' 

* Let her die,' said the farmer ; * it's she has 
brought this curse on us.' 

* Benjamin Handle,' said Mr. Bryant, stepping 
forward, * I insist upon that child's being taken care 
of 

The farmer brought his heavy hand on the table 
with a thump. 

* That's what you're come about, is it, Ned 
Bryant ? Oh ay, I took your money, so I did, and 
you want your money's worth, do ye ?' The brat 
shall be nursed the same as Sarah's lass. Them's 
my orders, Ann, bean't they ? You mind 'em, I 
say. But we won't have this brat bringing more 
fevers on us, Ned Bryant. You shall have your 
money back, and Emma shaU have her child. 
She's lost me my Sarah, that's where it is. I 
oughtn't never have took your money, Ned Bryant. 
Hush money never come to no good. When the 
brat's well enough to move, she shall march.' 



30 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

Mr. Bryant declined to discuss the matter at 
present. Then Ann referred again to her ' voler- 
tory and unpaid services/ and wheedled some 
money out of the rich brother-in-law. 

'Thank you, sir. I understand you, sir. I'll 
do my best, I'm sure, for Mary Smith. But little 
babies die wonderful quick, sir. I'd like Emma 
to remember that,' she said, winking at him again 
to his keen disgust. 

What had he done ? Mr. Bryant made yet 
one more effort to reveal the plot. ' Go up, Ben, 
and look at those children.' 

' I won't,' shouted Randle. ' My child's doing 
well, you say, Ann? I ain't a-going to catch a 
squint looking at tother.' 

' What have I done, I wonder ? ' said Mr. Bryant 
to himself as he walked away. ' Ben is right ; this 
Mary Smith has brought a curse upon us all.' 

Alas, poor child ! Never in those few short months 
of her little life called Pet, and Precious, and Sweet, 
and Baby ; only, by every one, with full honours, 
as if she were some grim old maid, Mary Smith. 

Mr. Bryant took his seat in the train and tried 
to review his position. An intense repugnance to 
the whole Randle family and connection was his 
first and most prominent feeling. Was it possible 
that he, with his white hands and clerical coat, had 
once belonged to people of that class ? had spoken 



MARY SMITH 31 

with that rude vxdgarity ? had looked out on the 
world with just such self-important, unaspiring 
eyes ? 

* How fortunate that Emma is not very fond of 
her relations,' he thought, and reflected that there 
was really only one strong tie binding Emma to her 
old home, — a tie which seemed now about to be 
snapped. ' Good heavens, is it wrong of me to wish, 
almost to pray, that the child may indeed die ? ' 

And then he felt a shiver run down his back. 
For it seemed perfectly clear to him that the babe 
had not been dying at all, and that if the tie 
were about to be snapped it would be by unlawful 
means. 

And yet he had done nothing. He had really 
nothing tangible to accuse himself of He had pro- 
tested against neglect. He had paid extra for proper 
nursing. He had recoiled in horror from any pro- 
ject of hastening nature's end. Why should he 
blame himself for not giving voice to suspicions 
that really seemed grounded in nothing but fancy ? 
That he was confused between the infants could 
astonish no one. They were rather more alike than 
every other two babies, and before this day he had 
not looked at Nannie at all, and only for five 
minutes at Mary Smith. If there was — a mistake 
between them, no reasonable person could hold him 
accountable. And why should he suppose there 



32 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

was even going to be a mistake ? Ann Eandle had 
said nothing definite. And then Mr. Bryant asked 
himself, Suppose there was — a mistake — not of his 
making, and which he was too simple and too 
honest to suspect — what harm would it do ? Posi- 
tively none to any one. He thought hard on this 
point ; and he could not discover any damage that 
would come to any one, if by any chance such an 
unfortunate accident as the confusing of the two 
children were to occur. 80 long as nobody knew, it 
would not matter in the least. 

And then a recollection came to him of his dear 
wife's cry when they had talked of Mary Smith on 
the morrow of their wedding. ' She is my child. 
/ should be defrauded.' 

Pshaw ! ridiculous, sentimental rubbish. Noth- 
ing could be more for Emma's advantage than the 
removal of this unfortunate, fatherless child. 

But all this was absurd. It was a maggot in 
his brain, as Ann had expressed it. No one but 
himself was dreaming of such silly juggling as 
an attempt to change the identity of two children. 
In fact he was going to see that nothing of the 
kind could possibly be done. He would take 
steps. If Mary Smith died he would arrange that 
she should not be buried without the corpse being 
inspected by some one who had known the child 
well. He had been a fool to spend so long con- 



MAR V SMITH n 

sidering the details of any project so ridiculous. 
The rest of the journey should be better occupied 
in framing some way of breaking the sad tidings to 
poor dear Emma, that her unfortunate child was, 
according to the doctor's verdict, at the point of 
death. It would be great suffering for the dear 
loving woman who had suffered so keenly already. 
Mr. Bryant began to feel sorry he had such a 
message to deliver. Thank Heaven, he had got at 
last into a fairly Christian frame of mind. 



CHAPTER IV 

On entering, Mr. Bryant went straight to his wife. 

It was a sultry afternoon, and Emma, languid all 
the summer, had found the close London house not 
a Httle oppressive. She sat in an arm-chair by the 
open window, Georgina on her knee for once, and 
fast asleep ; her round healthy face, more highly 
coloured than her stepmother's, bright with sunny 
slumber. At first he thought Emma was asleep 
too, for her fau' head drooped and she was very 
still ; but she looked up as he approached, and 
then he saw that her soft eyes were full of tears. 

' My darling, dearest Emma, what is the matter ? 
You have been crying. "VMiat is it ? Are you not 
well, love ? Has Georgie been troublesome ? ' 

VOL. I 3 



34 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

Emma, stretching out her hands, only asked him 
sorrowfully where he had been. 

Mr. Bryant seated himself on the sofa, drawing 
her to the place beside him, and keeping his arm 
round her. 

'My dearest, I have been to Faverton.' She 
gave a little cry and pressed her hands to her head, 
looking away from him. 

' I knew it, Edward.' 

What could she mean ? He trembled when a 
few moments after, stealing her hand into his and 
pressing her brow against his shoulder, she whis- 
pered, ' Edward, is she dead ? ' 

' Dead ? Who ? My darling, what do you 
mean ? ' Then, as she looked up with a sudden 
light of hope, he added hastily, ' She is ill, Emma. 
Little Mary is ill, but ' 

' I knew it, I^ed,' she interrupted, hiding her 
face again with a groan. 

' My dear child, how ? ' Had he left that hateful 
letter lying about then ? What folly not to have 
told her of it at once ! 

' Edward, I have had a dreadful dream.' 

' A dream ? Oh, never mind dreams. Let me 
tell you the facts.' 

' Ned, don't laugh at me, please. There is a deal 
of difference in dreams. I never heed them without 
they are of the kind one sees is something particular. 



MAR V SMITH 35 

It was a dreadful dream. I fell asleep after 
dinner, quite unlike usual, and then I dreamed. 
I thought I was at home again and sitting beside 
my own baby's cradle. And the door opened and 
Death came in — oh, so cold and so horrible — and 
he carried my child away.' 

' But, my love ' 

' Oh, please, listen. I woke all of a shiver ; 
and I thought, Edward, it was our new, our coming 
baby, and the reason was, it seemed said to me 
somehow, because I had deserted Mary ; I wasn't fit 
to be a mother again ! ' 

* Emma, this is quite morbid ; mere imagination.' 

' I thought and thought. And then I thought 
maybe it wasn't the new baby I saw in the dream, 
but Mary herself. I had been wondering all day 
where you had gone. And now you say — oh, 
Edward, please let me go and care for her at once ! ' 

' It is certainly a curious coincidence, Emma. 
But Mary is not going to die. She does not look 
ill — not very bad. I went up to see her myself.' 

' Oh, Ned, did you ? ' cried Emma. ' Oh, you are 
good ! you went to see my poor little Mary ! ' 

He kissed her affectionately. All this was surely 
the leading of his good angel. ' Emma, I am cer- 
tain she will recover.' And he told her all, with 
the exception, of course, of his suspicions of Ann 
Eandle. 



36 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

In fact, all that seemed absurdity now ; he 
was so thoroughly awake to his affection for Emma 
and to his duty. He repeated what he firmly 
believed, that her child was scarcely ill at all and 
would speedily recover. But Emma, frightened by 
her dream, was not to be so easily cheered. 

' Edward,' said the poor mother, pleadingly, ' don't 
say no, please. I want to go to my poor, dear, 
little girl at once. If she dies, oh let her die in my 
arms. Edward,' I can't bear it. When I think 
how I have forsaken her ! Oh, God will forgive me 
enough to keep her alive till I come. It kills me 
to think how bad I have been to her.' 

Mr. Bryant hesitated ; but he allowed himself 
to be persuaded. Emma's presence would after 
all be the simplest way of circumventing Ann's 
cunning designs. And the poor sweet darling was 
so insistent. 

So they started for Faverton, very affectionate 
to each other and both feeling themselves on the 
return to goodness from which they had wandered. 
Only, as a thinking human being finds it hard to 
remain in exactly the same state of feeling for a 
long while together, Mr. Bryant had not gone far ere 
various other moods had crept into his mind beside a 
mere vague desire to do all his duty and to please 
his dear, pathetic wife. He reflected that in her 
condition of weakness and distress it would be 



MARY SMITH 37 

most unwholesome for her to go near any person 
in a fever ; then he couldn't help wishing Emma 
were not so convinced that Mary Smith would 
die. She was so prepared for the event, so almost 
resigned about it, that he couldn't but remember 
it would be undoubtedly convenient. And the only 
time she at all seemed to contemplate the possibility 
of the child's recovery she made a very awkward 
suggestion. 

'Edward, I haven't been able to help thinking 
from Sarah's last letter that they are getting 
tired of having my Mary there. If God pardons 
me enough to let her live, won't you, dear, dear 
Edward, allow me to bring her home and care for 
her myself ? ' 

Mr. Bryant was silent, and she pushed her 
advantage. ' Oh do, dearest Ned. It is killing 
me going on so. Maybe they starve and neglect 
her. And it is my sin. You don't wish to make 
me miserable, or to do what I am sure is wrong, 
Edward ? ' 

* Certainly not, Emma.' 

And then, wearing for a moment her girlhood's 
bewitching smile, she laid her hand on his and 
looked at him with a sparkle in her tear-stained 
eyes, and said, 'That maybe is a promise, IS'ed — 
dearest Ned ! ' 

' Oh, Emma ! ' he said, transported ; but he was 



38 MR. BR YANT'S MISTAKE 

no longer in the submissive days of first love when 
every smile of hers was law ; in five minutes he was 
considering how he could reduce her to reason on 
this point, and best avoid fulfilling the promise he 
had not made. 

The train was very slow, and Emma, tired 
already, became quite worn out. She got rather 
hysterical when, on reaching the station at half- 
past nine, they found no sort of vehicle to take 
them the five miles to Faverton. Mr. Bryant stepped 
outside to see what could be done. It was now^ 
a chilly, drizzling evening. Emma would be wet 
through before they reached the farm, and how . 
angry every one would be to see her, especially as 
she would most certainly arrive sick and miserable 
herself, another invalid to give trouble. ' What 
a mess I am making of the whole affair,' said 
the clergyman to himself, 'to bolster up my con- 
science ; I have exposed lur to all manner of risks. 
What is to be done ? ' 

Just then a gig drove up to the station, and a 
very fussy old gentleman jumped down with a 
letter in his hand. 

' Come now, Stationmaster, come now,' he shouted, 
' this won't do, you know. I'll report you to the 
post-office. Here's the second time I've caught 
you making up your mails before the time. You 
shall just unseal them again.' 



MARY SMITH 39 

' If I didn't take time by the forelock, Doctor/ 
said the Postmaster rudely, ' I'd miss the train. 
Happen you didn't take time by the forelock at 
Handle's, and that's why you are losing your 
patients.' 

Mr. Bryant stepped forward, his heart in his 
mouth. ' Excuse me, sir. I am Edward Bryant, to 
whom I see that letter in your hand is addressed. 
What news have you brought me of my sister- 
in-law ? ' 

* Eh, what, what ? ' said the doctor, dragging the 
clergyman to the light and scrutinising him before 
handing the letter. 

* They gave it me to post,' he said ; ' I under- 
stand you are guardian of the child who has just 
died, and ' 

' Died ! ' echoed Mr. Bryant. ' Do you mean 
Mary Smith ? ' 

'Don't know her name. Heard she was an 
orphan — an heiress, eh ? as there's such a fuss about 
her ! Knew the moment I saw her she wouldn't 
recover. Puny, backward child — contrast to Mrs. 
Eandle's baby. Fear the woman neglected her foster 
child. Natural enough.' 

' And her own child, how is she ? ' asked Mr. 
Bryant, bewildered. 

' Oh, all right. Not much the matter with her. 
You seem fond of babies, sir. I suppose parsons 



40 MR. BR YANT S MISTAKE 

get used to 'em baptizing 'em — pleasanter job than 
vaccinating, though less useful, eh ? Ben Eandle 
hasn't your enthusiasm. Wouldn't go near 'em. 
Don't seem to care to have the dead one buried — 
called it a brat.' 

' It would have been better,' said Mr. Bryant, 
astonished by his own fluency, ' according to our 
first idea, to have allowed my wife to undertake the 
orphan. Her mother, Mrs. Smith, a most excellent 
woman, was a near relative of Mrs. Bryant's and 
an intimate friend. But as Mrs. Eandle had an 
infant of the same age, she was considered the 
more suitable foster-mother for the first few months. 
How is Mrs. Eandle ? ' 

' Very bad. She has her sister with her.' 

' Indeed. My wife has come down with me to 
offer assistance. Unfortunately the journey has 
knocked her up ; and I am perplexed, finding no 
vehicle.' 

' Take my trap — take my trap,' said the doctor. 

' Thank you. To tell the truth, I am doubt- 
ing if I ought to let her go farther. You say 
she can do nothing for her friend's child, and 
that Mrs. Eandle has a nurse already? My wife 
is delicate' — and so on in praise of Emma's 
unselfishness and insistence on her fragility. Of 
course the doctor, who, even in those careless 
days, had some conscience about the spread of 



MAJ^V SMITH 41 

infection, strongly recommended that neither the 
clergyman nor his lady should go a step nearer ; and 
lie drove off without repeating his offer of the gig. 

Mr. Bryant stood irresolute. ' Mary Smith 
is dead/ he said to himself; and then some voice 
seemed to reply, ' Mary Smith is alive and a 
fine healthy child. It is Nannie Eandle who has 
died, and you are going to pay that detestable 
woman to spread a falsehood.' 

What was to be done ? 

And now poor Emma tottered out from the 
station and put her arm through his. She was 
very pale and quiet. 

* Edward, I heard you talking to that man. 
I heard what he said. My dream spoke true, 
Edward. My poor Mary is dead.' 

He kissed her. ' Dearest Emma ! ' 

' I am quite well now, Edward. I can walk 
to the house. I must see her once ; and then 
perhaps I shall be able to feel it is better God has 
taken her.' 

*You shall go, my Emma,' he said eagerly. 
'Yes, yes — we will go together, and — and — make 
amends,' he added vaguely, feeling about, as it 
were, for his good angel. 

They set forth silently, arm in arm, through the 
drizzle. 

Emma had not gone far before her tears came 



42 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

again, and her limbs began to tremble. After 
another five minutes she stopped and drew her 
arm from his. 

' i^ed, you must go alone/ she said ; ' I cannot 
do it. I am too tired.' Then she flung herself 
into his arms with a great sob. 

' Ned, oh, I think my heart will break. 
You'll go for me, won't you, Ned, and you'll 
give my poor, dear, neglected darling — my little 
Mary — her poor mother's last kiss ! ' 



PART II 
THE INSANE BOOT 



CHAPTEE I 

The Baroness von Eudersthal, an Englishwoman 
of fortune and widow of an Austrian diplomatist, 
about forty years of age, childless, well preserved, 
and handsome, had arrived in Eome for the winter, 
and established herself and her retinue on the first 
floor of the best hotel. She had an army of couriers, 
footmen, and waiting- women ; and she had with her 
a young lady, sometimes described as her adopted 
daughter and sometimes as her companion. In point 
of fact the girl was a distant and obscure relation, 
who had lived with the Baroness from childhood, and 
been intended for mere servitude and company ; but 
who had blossomed into a beauty, and by this time 
was a far more imposing and courted personage 
than her benefactress. The latter, first astonished, 
then displeased, was meditating desperate steps to 
avoid permanent deposition. To get the girl married 
was of course the simplest way out of the difficulty, • 
and there never was a month in which an admirer 
failed to appear ; but these naturally did not all mean 



46 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

matrimony, and the beauty was fastidious. At twenty 
she was still disengaged. The Baroness, with a deep 
design in her head, beckoned to her from England 
an old suitor of her own — Lord Cookham, second of 
his title, a priggish gentleman, indebted for his wealth 
and position to a successful father of somewhat vulgar 
extraction. ' Precisely the person we want to show 
us Eome,' said the Baroness ; and Lord Cookham 
arrived with his retinue, which included a physician 
and a naturalist, taking up his residence in the same 
hotel with the two magnifical ladies. Georgina 
thought the gentleman's coronet extremely pretty, 
but himself wondrous dull ; and the latter opinion 
was fully shared by her admirer then in office, young 
Vincent Leicester, only son of Sir Charles Leicester 

of Everwell Heights in the County of X , and 

of Faverton Hall in the county of W , who had 

married a daughter of the Earl of Henslow, and 
who was related to the Baroness von Eudersthal. 
Vincent was the ordinary tall, healthy, young English- 
man, with a somewhat lordly air, and a tendency to 
brush insignificant or superfluous people out of his 
way. He was at the age for enjoying himself; had 
travelled; and of late, having fallen in with his rela- 
tive the Baroness, and become enamoured of Georgina 
Bryant, (daughter, by the way, of a parson he had 
once read with and liked in the long vacation), he 
had now followed the two ladies to Eome. For 



THE INSANE ROOT 47 

Georgina had said to him ' jSTo ' in a ' kiss -and - 
come -again' sort of way, which was not very 
depressing to a person of courage and self-con- 
fidence ; and a sort of cousinly intimacy continued 
between the two young people, who were very 
happy, not being in the condition of tumultu- 
ous passion which makes lovers sick at heart, 
and indeed each secretly holding the opinion 
that there is considerable charm in the liberty of 
single blessedness. All was going well till Lord 
Cookham, the walking guide - book, made his 
appearance. Georgina then began to exhibit un- 
wonted interest in ancient monuments ; and young 
Leicester, who had a vast contempt for my lord's 
modern title, his information, precision, care of his 
health, paltry size, baldness, and ancestral connection 
with trade, began to be jealous, moody, and un- 
manageable. 

' No,' he said, ' I'll ride to-morrow. I won't go 
sight-seeing. Faugh, the bony smell of St. Agnese 
is still in my nostrils ! If I were the king, I'd go 
out with some sealing wax and shut up the entrance 
to your Catacombs, till your nasty old skeletons re- 
covered their flesh with other Christians at Doomsday. 
There are too many objects altogether at Eome ; 
they have the same effect on the mind as the Book 
of Proverbs, which is a string of admirable sentiments 
and maxims, but exhibited in so disconnected a way 



48 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

as to be even ludicrously unimpressive. The Govern- 
ment ought to remove all rubbish. What sense or 
beauty is there in the collection of stumps nicknamed 
Trajan's Forum ? And those filthy old dens by the 
river ? and half the churches ? Prayer saying to the 
extent of those churches is out of date. Indeed great 
part of the town is out of date. The Pope has been 
pulled down, and the town must be pulled down by 
degrees also. Why not ? Are we to stop making 
history in our day ? Where would be the historical 
associations of Eome if succeeding generations had 
not one and all trampled on the work of the fellows 
before ? Your favourite Antinous has lost his arms, 
you say ? Well, what are the arms of a statue ? 
Can't you always make new ones ? The living 
iconoclasts, Goths or whoever they were, were worth 
more. You'd have been puzzled to put new arms 
upon tluml E'o, no, Eome must not be left a 
mere museum for English dilettanti,' ended Vincent ; 
' it must improve like other places.' 

' Improve ! ' a horrified echo ran round the room 
and the Philistine laughed himself. 'Well, it is 
improvement,' he maintained ; ' all civilisation is im- 
provement, even if it has the defects of its quahties. 
A king with a conscience — your popes had none, of 
course — is bound to go in for civilisation.' 

' Dear me ! have you a conscience ? ' whispered 
Georgina. 



THE INSANE ROOT 49 

' I ? Heaven forbid ! A most inconvenient 
appendage. But then I'm not a king. If one 
were, upon my word, I think one would have to 
grow a conscience.' 

At this moment a telegram was handed to 
Vincent Leicester. It was from his mother, announc- 
ing that Sir Charles was dangerously ill and begging 
her son to return to England at once. 

That evening, when the Baroness asked Georgina 
casually whether she intended to marry Vincent 
Leicester, the girl replied, ' Yes, I suppose so.' For 
she had reflected that Sir Vincent Leicester entered 
into his inheritance was a different person from 
the boyish suitor whom she had refused but not 
dismissed two months ago. Had he renewed his 
proposals this evening she would have accepted 
them. 

But Vincent's thoughts were all with his parents, 
and love-making seemed somehow a frivolity in- 
congruous with the solemn scene being enacted by 
his father's bedside, and at w^hich he longed to be 
present. Choosing a wife was nothing like so 
serious a matter as losing a father ; it must wait 
till he had a heart at leisure to attend to it and 
to other pleasures. *' You will write to me, Geor- 
gina?' he said, 'and I will return as soon as I 

can ; and then ' She knew what he meant, 

but it was an indefinite sort of speech, vexing to 

VOL. I 4 



53 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

the young lady. She consoled herself by flirting 
with Lord Cookham, who had such a pretty coronet, 
and was so wise about obelisks. 



CHAPTEE II 

' Fancy my poor father having been at Everwell ! ' 
said Vincent ; ' those people at Everwell were 
always wanting something, and Blake, the steward, 
a regular skinflint, was always deluging their requests 
with cold water. None of us had been there for 
years. I wonder what took him there now.' 

' You'll have to give up wandering, settle down, 
and redress grievances,' said Mr. Bryant. Vincent 
opened his eyes. 

' Who ? I ? Oh, I suppose Blake knows what 
he's about.' 

They were by this time breakfasting in Vin- 
cent's smart bachelor apartments at St. James's ; 
the very attractive-looking clergyman having met 
the traveller at Victoria, and given him the news 
that Sir Charles's sudden illness had already come 
to a fatal termination. 

' It was like you to come and meet me,' Vin- 
cent had said rather hurriedly, putting his arm 
through his friend's. 'I will go on by the 11.30, 
but I should be glad to say a word to you first.' 



THE INSANE ROOT 51 

Mr. Bryant had agreed readily, for he was attached 
to this young man of family, and had kept up a 
sort of desultory acquaintance with him ever since 
the reading party in the long vacation. Vincent 
too liked the clergyman, though he had rather 
forgotten him ; and he had a new reason now for 
regarding his old friend with interest. Neverthe- 
less his thoughts were too much with his dead 
father for hiru to begin to talk of Georgina at once, 
and for a long time he was very silent. 

*You don't suppose, Mr. Bryant,' he said at 
last with some awkwardness, ' that Georgina would 
like settling down at Everwell ? ' 

' Georgina ? What do you mean ? ' 

' Didn't she tell you ? ' 

' My Georgina ? Tell me what ? ' 

' That, — upon my word, there wasn't much to 
tell, — that I want to persuade her to come to 
Everwell, or wherever it is, to — to be my wife, in 
fact,' said Vincent, with a laugh, as Mr. Bryant 
did not seem yet to understand. 

'My dear boy, what — what an extraordinary 
notion ! ' stammered the clergyman. 

' Oh, it is impossible,' he said presently, pushing 
his plate away with the air of a man who dares 
not trifle with forbidden delicacies, and rising from 
the table ; ' quite out of the question. I sincerely 
hope Georgie recognised that.' 



LIBRARY 

— .^ ftc inmoiS 



52 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

' Georgina refused me, but I hope — I think, not 
finally. Why do you say it is impossible ? ' 

' My daughter must look no higher than some 
poor curate/ said the clergyman. 

' May I ask if you have seen Georgina lately ? ' 

'No. I am sorry to say I have not. I have 
no time for long journeys myself, and her patroness 
is exacting and keeps Georgie close.' 

' Patroness ? ' 

'Yes. Georgie is a dependent on her. A poor 
relation, a companion, a sort of lady's maid, in fact,' 
said Mr. Bryant. Vincent stared. 

' I think you had better go and see your 
daughter, Mr. Bryant. You don't seem to know 
quite the sort of person she is. She is very 
beautiful,' said the young man, flushing. 

' That may be,' returned the clergyman calmly^ 
but with fast growing internal excitement. 

' And very — fashionable. She refused me because 
I wasn't smart enough. She has counts and princes 
about her ; at this moment an English peer.' 

' You are jesting.' 

' An English peer at her feet. Or at the Bar- 
oness's. At first I thought she was the attraction. 
Her age is the more suitable. I don't see why,' 
said Vincent, gravely and awkwardly, ' I shouldn't 
run a fair chance among them all, especially if 
you, sir, will give me a good word.' 



THE INSANE ROOT 53 

Mr. Bryant was silent for some time. ' No/ he said 
at last, ' I am glad Georgie refused you. My family 
is very humble, Sir Vincent, and even Georgina's 
mother was at one time working for her living. Your 
position is different. You must put it out of your head.' 

Perhaps Mr. Bryant's confession of humble origin 
was not very emphatic ; at any rate it made no im- 
pression on his hearer. It had never occurred to 
him that the parson was not a gentleman. 

' Why, Georgina and I are almost cousins!' he pro- 
tested. 'That is all nonsense, Mr. Bryant, that you are 
saying. My mother would be the first person to tell 
you so. At any rate you don't refuse your consent ? ' 

* No, I don't go quite so far as that,' admitted 
Mr. Bryant, rather weakly, for he felt dazzled and 
confused. ' My daughter is, I regret to say, too in- 
dependent of me for my interference in her choice 
unless on very grave grounds ; questions of conduct, 
for instance,' he ended, firmly. 

Vincent rebelled against what he fancied the sacer- 
dotal tone of this remark. ' I must take my chance 
there,' he said, drily, and was near repeating that Mr. 
Bryant did not know his daughter. It was impossible 
to imagine Georgina being much interested in ques- 
tions of conduct. Soon afterwards they separated. 

Everwell's little gray church is on a windy 
hill, and not near any house. It seems just 
the place for the dead, where the sun at all 



54 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

hours falls athwart the graves, and the far-away 
sea makes quiet music. ' Bury my dead out 
of my sight/ said Abraham ; and it is best so. 
In a lonely place where the children will not 
play upon the strange grass -grown mounds, nor 
happy lovers stumble over some weather-beaten 
tombstone, which tells an unheeded record of 
* William of this parish dying at seventy -three,' 
and Susan his wife quickly following him to the 
long home. Will they too, the young William and 
the blooming Susan of to-day, who are passing 
hand in hand, one day be told of just so, on a 
moss-grown, weather-beaten tombstone? It is a 
gloomy thought. Away ! Bury my dead out of 
my sight! It is better to forget them than to 
have such dismal notions starting up at joyous 
moments, like a cold hand touching the bride at 
the wedding feast. So at least they had thought 
at Everwell ; and the little church with its ever- 
present congregation of the dead is far away from 
the life of men, from the old deserted home of 
the Leicesters, Everwell Heights, and farther still 
from the rough fishing hamlet at the foot of the 
cliff*. Sometimes along the mossy path to the 
church comes a sad little procession wending its 
way out of the world for a few moments, to leave 
some one in the hallowed precincts : a child per- 
haps in that little coffin, borne under his arm by 



THE INSANE ROOT 55 

some tall fisherman, and followed by two young 
girls in white — 'tis the custom at Everwell — and 
then by the parents and the brothers and sisters, 
and perhaps a grandmother labouring along, and 
many neighbours, all feeling the way very long, and 
talking to each other more than weeping, yet still 
in their rude way honouring that strange visitant, 
Death, the grisly king. It is the way with the 
uncivilised, a funeral is always an event. They 
go to church but seldom on other occasions at 
Everwell. 

To-day poor Sir Charles is to be taken to 
Everwell Church and the graves of his ancestors, 
who for several generations now have done little 
for the place but be buried in it. Sir Charles has 
accidentally managed to die there also, and the 
fact has startled the people into attention. 

' It is God's judgment,' said Alick Eandle ; and 
Blake called him an insolent fool ; but the new Sir 
Vincent, who had arrived yesterday, looked at the 
speaker with some surprised interest, and wondered 
a little who he was, and what had given him such 
a sore feeling against poor, easy-going, good-natured 
Sir Charles. ' It's our way here, Sir Vincent, 
to carry our dead with our own hands,' said the 
same man ; ' he was a bit hard on us, but maybe 
if we had been better acquainted, we might 
have served each other. Let him be beholden for 



56 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

the last service to us, sir, and maybe you'll shake 
hands with us over the dead, and it'll be a 
beginning of better times.' Yin cent looked again 
at the speaker, whose measured and musical voice 
was strangely impressive. He was a slightly- 
deformed, irregular -featured young man, lean and 
shrunken and pale, but redeemed from ugliness 
by a finely arched head and singularly thoughtful, 
luminous eyes, which always rested calmly and 
boldly on those of the person he was addressing. 
His dress was that of an upper-class workman. 

' I like your plan,' said Vincent briefly ; dis- 
gusting Mr. Blake, who had designed very imposing 
funeral arrangements indeed. 

And now after a stormy night, slowly, through 
the stillness of a gray, cold morning, the people toiled 
up the steep road from the village, all subdued 
and startled and curious ; and Alick Eandle led 
the procession with the eight fishermen in their jer- 
seys chosen to be the bearers, and the two young 
maids in white cotton dresses, white handkerchiefs 
crossed over their shoulders, and white sun-bonnets 
shading their faces, each carrying a garland of 
ivy twisted with stiff pinkish-white seaweed. In 
every funeral procession at Everwell, as far back 
as the memory of the oldest man could extend, 
there had been thus two white -robed maidens 
leading the mourners. No one noticed them to-day, 



THE INSANE ROOT 57 

except Sir Vincent, who, at first annoyed by the 
singularity of their costume, relented on discovering 
that the taller of the two was extremely pretty, 
and moreover nearly related to the e\ddently im- 
portant person, Alick Eandle, who would cer- 
tainly take offence if she were dismissed from 
office. So the procession all set forth together ; 
the young heir and his weeping mother, present 
by her own request ; and then the relations and 
acquaintances and servants, and then the tenants 
and the fishing population. And they passed 
along slowly, slowly, to the little graveyard gate, 
where the old clergyman, himself a relation of the 
deceased, met them and began his task. And the 
seaweed garlands went with the costly exotics 
which the heartbroken widow had ordered from 
a London shop ; and the new young landlord and 
his lady mother stood among the villagers. And 
the eye of every one, small and great, was fixed 
with interest and speculation, with prejudice or 
affection, upon young Sir Vincent, to see what 
manner of man he was likely to be. 



CHAPTEE III 

Most unnatural and tedious were to Vincent the 
days of gloom and ceremony which followed ; 



58 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

equally unpleasant the discovery that he was a 
much poorer man than he had ever looked to be. 
For he had been little at home, and was not suffi- 
ciently intimate with his parents to know that their 
frugality was a matter as much of necessity as of 
choice. ' Let the poor lad enjoy himself/ Sir Charles 
used to say ; always inclined to apologise to Vincent 
for his elderly and long childless parents, who knew 
nothing about young people and were enamoured of 
comfortable dulness. Sir Charles would have gone 
without a coat rather than deny his son sixpence ; 
so Vincent had not only had all he wanted for 
the moment, but had indulged largely in expensive 
castles in the air. For instance, he would get rid 
of his little yacht and build a bigger with all the 
modern improvements ; he would take long voy- 
ages ; do some exploring; shoot at big game. The 
house at Faverton should be enlarged ; new stables 
built, for he must have an unrivalled hunting 
establishment. And Georgina — oh, Georgina would 
require a blaze of diamonds, bevies of footmen, gold 
dishes on her table, golden shoes on immortal horses, 
and a milliner's bill six miles long. There could 
be only one kind of life suitable to Georgina : an 
indoors life of much society and entertainment ; 
a London house and a husband in Parliament. 
He didn't himself so greatly care for that kind of 
thing ; which was as well, for in the middle of his 



THE INSANE ROOT 59 

extravagant scheming he suddenly entered upon his 
inheritance ; discovered that his father had been not 
only economical, but almost poor ; and that if he him- 
self were starting in life with a competence, it could 
prove so only by a very careful adjusting of necessities 
and desires. The steam yacht and the matchless 
hunters — they were necessities surely ; as to the town 
house, the society, and the milliner's bills — Vincent 
thought it prudent in writing to Georgina to throw 
out a few hints about the downfall of his hopes. 

' This is a frightful ramshackle old house, which 
has seen so much better days 'as to be barely 
respectable. If I had only the money, I should 
pull it down and build a commodious family 
mansion in the hollow, where the east wind would 
not howl in gigantic chimneys. You would agree 
with us in liking our nice Httle modern Faverton 
Hall much better. At least it does not look so 
poverty-struck and importunate. There I had always 
a feeling of wealth, which I hope belongs to the walls 
and the atmosphere, and is no doubt as comforting as 
reality.' Vincent was no great scribe, and not even 
a love-letter appeared to come natural to him. 
However, he thought these hints rather neat, and 
had no suspicion of the very ugly appearance his 
under-lined sentence would have in Georgina's eye. 
The letter off his mind, he went out to see how 
the waves looked on a stormy night. Everwell 



6o MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

was not a nice place; it was even more gaunt 
and dilapidated and unfriendly than he had expected ; 
but as he was here for the nonce he might as well 
see it thoroughly, and make acquaintance with a 
few of its surly inhabitants. After all they were ' his 
own people/ and his family had roots here as it had 
not at 'nice little Faverton.' And then it occurred 
to him that that pretty girl, Alick Eandle's sixteen- 
year-old sister, looked the pleasantest of ' his own 
people,' and he would like to see her again. 

Taking pleasure in the storm, which seemed 
harmonious to his discontented mood, Vincent was 
soon on the shore ; and there he found a group of 
people gazing apathetically at one of the so-called 
' big boats,' which had no business to be putting 
into Everwell at all in such weather, and was 
consequently now entangled in the waves and the 
sunken rocks, in what seemed a perfectly hopeless 
manner. The boat indeed upset just as Vincent 
reached the group of spectators, who edged away from 
him in sulky aversion ; and then these people all 
heaved a sigh of relief as at the ending of a show, 
and one man moved away homewards, uttering the 
opinion of the rest, ' Sarves them fools right.' 

Vincent, full of wrath, seized him by the 
shoulders, and turned him round again, ' You are 
not going to let those men drown within a stone's 
throw of land and not raise a finger to help them ? ' 



THE INSANE ROOT 6i 

he said. Who could have supposed adventures 
so ready to hand at Everwell ? Vincent organised 
and led a singularly unwilling rescue party, which 
detested him for his interference, but were awed 
into submission when they found what a strong 
oar he could pull, and how little he heeded opposi- 
tion whether of waves or men. He got a swim too, — 
a plunge into the boiling waters after one feeble old 
fisherman who had been unable to retain his hold 
of the floating spars till the rescue coble had arrived, 
and who, unconscious, dead almost, had drifted 
away into a whirlpool, where no boat could follow. 
Everwell in its boldest flights of imagination had 
not conceived that swimming could be brought to 
such a pass of effectiveness. 

' Seems a chap what knows summat of the sey,' 
said one of the fisherman, jerking his thumb at Sir 
Vincent, who, having shipped his prize, was now 
sitting in the bottom of the overloaded coble and 
breathing hard while he tried to pull himself together 
during the return voyage ; leaving the navigation to 
the men now, and listening with some amusement 
and some disgust to the remarks on his performance. 
But what applause does hero value save applause 
from the eyes of beauty ? Alick Eandle had all 
through been Sir Vincent's able lieutenant on land ; 
but when the hero leaped on shore again, it was 
to find the man attended now by the dear little 



62 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

girl, Nannie, his sweet -faced sister, who was wait- 
ing meekly with a store of blankets and brandy 
and other restoratives for the ill-fated mariners. 
Vincent quite lost his hold on present emergencies 
when he met the admiring gaze of those lovely 
eyes. He looked at ]N"annie more earnestly than 
even her admiration justified, and Alick conceived 
a distinct annoyance, and taking the blankets from 
the girl, he sent her a little roughly away. 

Vincent found that he had a great deal to think 
about that evening ; so much that Georgina Bryant 
was very nearly forgotten, and the decay of his 
brilliant designs for spending his imaginary patri- 
mony. His thoughts went wandering round and 
round these points. First, ' his own people ' were 
craven, sordid, unadventurous souls. Secondly, 
Alick Handle was a queer, good sort of chap, who 
might want setting down. Thirdly, that was a very 
unusually pretty girl, and he must see her again. 
And so on, the third reflection coming up twice, per- 
haps, for one appearance of the others ; till he slept 
the sleep of the just, when the just is young and 
pretty thoroughly weary. 

The boatwreck had undoubtedly increased Sir 
Vincent's interest in Everwell ; he would acquaint 
himself with the place before settling down in his 
home at Faverton ; already he fancied a shade 
less aversion in the stare with which the people 



THE INSANE ROOT d^ 

greeted him when he made his appearance in the 
village next day. Here he caught sight of Alick 
mounting the steep, dirty street from the beach to the 
higher part of the hamlet, and curiosity set him to 
follow that queer chap. If he knew where Alick 
lived, he would know where his pretty sister lived, 
a quest that really seemed important enough to 
justify the expenditure of an hour or two. When 
Alick came to the wooden bridge across the Beck, 
at this hour abandoned to the brown fishing nets, 
hung upon it to dry, he stopped and whistled, and 
presently who should appear but the fair Nannie 
herself. She wore a blue petticoat, displaying trim 
ankles and little feet cased in clumsy shoes ; a 
white apron and a lilac sun-bonnet. Beneath the 
latter peeped out delicate rings of — alas ! red hair. 
Her clothes — the costume of the place — were all 
so clean and fresh that she gave a faint idea 
of masquerading ; her slight figure w^as elastic 
and graceful, and she walked upright, carrying a 
basket upon her head. Alick, it seemed, disapproved 
of this, and lifted it off; then a soft laugh broke 
on the air and the two stood together talking on 
the bridge, their figures reflected on the smooth, 
tide-swollen streamlet. Vincent was hidden in the 
shadow, and finding himself unobserved, he paused 
observant. Alick showed the girl some money, and 
they laughed about it — at least Nannie laughed; 



64 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

Alick seemed a grave person. Then he separated 
one coin from the rest and gave it to her. She 
appeared to expostulate, and the man said a little 
impatiently, ' N'o, ISTannie, it ain't over - much. 
The tenth is the Bible proportion.' She shook 
her pretty head and looked up at him with vener- 
ation. Then they separated after some further 
disputing and laughing about the basket ; Nannie 
gaining her point and marching off triumphantly 
with it planted upon her bonnet and held on by her 
hand, while she peeped over her shoulder at the 
retreating Alick, who had been forced at last into a 
smile. Any dispassionate person ought to have per- 
ceived some sort of sweethearting in all this. But 
Vincent had an idee fixe. He had decided in his 
own mind, and did not propose to reopen the ques- 
tion, that this damsel was the ugly little hunchback's 
sister. He could have declared that Alick himself 
had furnished him with the information. 

Sir Vincent emerged out of the shadow as Nannie 
passed him, and she made a curtsey and blushed 
very much, remembering in what a silly way she 
had been behaving. Now Nannie's blush was an 
extremely delicate and pretty one. 

' I hope you didn't catch cold last night ? ' 
inquired Sir Vincent, with a wild desire to say 
something. 
' ' Oh, sir/ said Nannie softly, getting still rosier, ' it 



THE INSANE ROOT 65 

was you — you we hoped that for ! Oh, sir, we felt 
so proud of you ! ' 

Vincent laughed and wanted to stay talking to 
her. But he had discerned his uncle Frederick 
Kane coming round the point, and felt a need of 
brevity. 

' Are you going to look at the sea ? ' 

' No, sir, I haven't time to-night,' said Nannie. 

' You go sometimes then ? ' 

' Yes, I like to get far out on the scar and watch 
the waves,' she replied; and Vincent suggested to 
himself that some evening he too would go and 
see how the waves looked from the scar. 

' Good-bye,' he said, raising his hat, as if she 
had been a lady, and Nannie blushed, curtseyed, 
and went on her way. After a time he ventured 
a glance. Nannie was surveying a stout woman 
in front of her and had stopped, shading her eyes 
from the sea sparkle with one hand, while the 
other steadied the basket. That pretty attitude 
showed her rounded figure to much advantage, and 
the young man watched her till she had moved out 
of his sight. 

Well, that interesting episode was over : what 
next ? Vincent strode after Alick, and caught him 
up on the road above the village, just where was 
the baker's shop and post-office, and behind it 
the wide valley leading to a farm long unlet. On 

VOL. I 5 



66 MR. BR Y ant's MISTAKE 

the other side of the way was a quaint little house 
painted pink, with a very overhanging roof of 
red and weather-beaten tiles. The back windows 
looked down into the sea, though between the 
house and the actual precipice a narrow path from 
the village climbed up, to meet the road a few 
yards farther on. This house, liable, one would 
think, to be swept away bodily by a storm, was 
chiefly remarkable for its front garden, where 
grew rows of odd little half-dead plants, all care- 
fully labelled and divided from each other by 
minute stone walls. Grubbing in this garden was 
an elderly, ragged-haired man, in his shirt-sleeves, 
and by his side an old lady in a short skirt, 
a man's coat, and a felt hat, who through two pair 
of spectacles was examining a dried — a very 
much dried — fish. About the whole premises 
was a subtle odour of things strange, aromatic, 
pungent, withered, and nasty. 

' Sir, that is Dr. Verrill,' explained Alick, gravely; 
'if you'll come in he'll be pleased to make your 
knowledge.' To which Vincent, in search of amuse- 
ment, agreed ; the more readily that he had observed 
another person, already known to him, sauntering 
round the garden and occasionally stopping to kneel 
before one of the plants and examine it with short- 
sighted eyes. This gentleman carried two long 
pins, each with a buzzing fly impaled upon it ; and 



THE INSANE ROOT 67 

he was habited in black, being Sir Vincent's cousin, 
the Eev. Henry Septimius Leicester. 

' Oh, AUck ! ' cried the doctor, jumping up, ' you 
are late ; the light is declining. Quick, show me 
what you have brought, and get to work. The 
blossom will not last till to-morrow. How do 
you do, sir ? I'll attend to you in a moment, but 
the claims of science are imperative.' 

The intruder bowed, and looked on w^hile 
Ahck unfolded a roll of paper, displaying a 
large and effective water-colour drawing of a 
plant with glossy leaves and small purple 
flowers. In addition to the main picture were 
separate and colossal representations of a single 
leaf, a seed, etc., from the same plant, with a long 
description underneath in illuminated writing, the 
whole thing framed by a running pattern border 
about an inch wide, also painted and designed from 
the same flower. 

The parson and the old lady with the flsh 
knelt before this production, while Ahck crouched 
behind holding it open, and Vincent stood beside 
him, much inclined to laugh. The doctor uncere- 
moniously removed one pair of spectacles from the 
old lady's nose and transferred them to his own ; 
then he produced a withered leaf from his pocket 
and compared it with the depicted one, shaking his 
head ; then with compasses measured the distance 



68 MR. Bryant's mistake 

between the leaf joint and the calyx, and nodded ; 
then began to read aloud the botanical dissertation, 
explaining the detail of the plant. 

' My brother is writing a book,' whispered the old 
lady to the stranger, ' and this is one of the illustra- 
tions. Alick has finished four of them. He is likely 
to be a great painter. The book is on Vegetarianism 
and the culture of edible herbs. The most original 
portion will deal with the subject of Fungus. 
That is a very beautiful specimen you smell from 
the rockery. It is Polypore Merisma Sulfureus, and 
has been used heretofore as a physic for dogs. But 
we dined off it yesterday, and found it made an 
admirable pie, from which neither of us have ex- 
perienced further ill effects than a slight sensation 
of nausea at the moment of eating, which can 
be obviated on the next occasion by doubling the 
flavouring of allspice and marjoram.' 

The Eev. Septimius now spoke. ' Your handling 
of the brush is improved, Alick. You do me as 
your master credit. The border design is good. It 
should be adaptable for the wall-paper I wish you 
to design for my bedroom.' 

' Alick,' said the doctor, * allow Sir Vincent to take 
your place. The light is changing. Get to your 
work at once.' 

' But the fungus, brother ? ' cried the lady; ' can 
we ensure so perfect a specimen again ? ' The 



THE INSANE ROOT 69 

smell from the rockery, be it observed, was not 
pleasant. 

Alick rose to his feet, folded his arms, and spoke 
in a slow, distinct utterance, unexpectedly interesting. 
' Excuse me, miss ; I never engaged to draw that 
stinking stuff from life. Sii% you'll have to make 
the wall-paper yourself; and doctor, begging your 
humble pardon, I am going to waste no more time 
on this work.' 

* Mercenary ! ' said Dr. Yerrill, unmoved. 

' Mercenary ! ' cried the young man. ' Sir, I'd 
have taken the same pains for no money at all, if 
it had been a work I could see a blessing in. It 
might have been a blessing to set folk eating fruits 
God made for their good, which are cheap to be got 
and easy to grow, and can be kept down without 
allspice and marjoram. AVe've had nothing of that 
sort yet. And you'U drive 'em meat -devouring 
again, with the stench of your polypore pies, and 
poison a few, who don't digest so easy as you ; just 
as Sir Vincent here is giving some of 'em typhus and 
setting the most of 'em gin-drinking by kneading their 
bread with the sea, and boiling their broth in the beck, 
which is the common wash-tub and the common sewer.' 

Vincent raised his eyebrows. Then Alick, 
producing the gold coins which he had shown 
Nannie on the bridge, turned again to Dr. Verrill. 
' I have kept on with the painting, doctor, because 



70 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

you had paid me beforehand for a dozen. That 
was in the days before I was regenerate ' 

* Tut/ said the clergyman. 

' And maybe it was no more sin to me than any 
of my other filthy rags. I have kept at it against 
my conscience this many a day, because I couldn't 
give you the moneys back. To-night I have them, 
and I hand them to you now, sir, and pray you to 
deliver me from a bondage which has grown to me 
a bondage to the devil.' 

Upon this the old lady sprang to her feet, and 
shaking her stick at the recusant, cried in cracked 
and trembling tones, ' Young man, it's the devil has 
taken possession of your soul. You have inherited 
a talent from your grandfather, who painted the 
family portraits at the Heights' — (Vincent shuddered: 
that very morning he had condemned to the stake 
certain villainous representations of his progenitors 
painted by a local artist, and hung up beside the 
three Vandycks and half - dozen Sir Joshuas, 
deservedly prized by the family) — 'which with 
cultivation might make you the head of what they 
call the Academy in London ; and you are deliberately 
thwarting your Maker's intentions, and what is 
worse, you are thwarting the intentions of my 
brother's Maker also. What value will there be in 
his book without the plates ? And to what purpose 
have we spent years in the cultivation of these 



THE INSANE ROOT 71 

delicate vegetables if the world is not to reap the 
fruit of our experiments ? ' 

' Miss/ replied Alick, firmly, ' if you come to the 
purposes of the holy Maker, I would have you know 
He never meant them flowers to grow at Everwell. 
It's a sin to murder 'em ; and it's a sin to go lusting 
after and tasting the strange meats you make pies 
of, which was given for a curse upon the ground and 
a punishment to man, as it's plain to be seen from 
their unclean juices and abominable stinks. No, 
sir, I ain't a meat-eater myself ; but I've read in my 
Bible as the kingdom of heaven is not meat and 
drink ; and I will spend no more holy hours fiddling 
and faddling, and altering, and copying, and spoiling, 
what at best is a question of meats and drinks, and 
has nothing to say to righteousness, and peace, and 
joy in the Holy Ghost.' 

' Then you can begin the wall-paper at once,' 
said the Eev. Septimius. 

' Oh ay, the wall-paper ! ' retorted Alick, turning 
on him ; ' it's fitting, is it, as God's minister should 
be spending his days thinking on wall-papers when 
the flock is starving around him for soul -bread, 
forgetting the very sound of God's name except 
in their curses, and losing their hope and their 
happiness, and their manliness, and their health 
in the dregs of Satan's vice. That's none of 
his business, I suppose ? Look here, Mr. Leicester, 



72 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

Dick Boulter's lass drowned herself a fortnight agone, 
or maybe Dick drowned her ; or her lover ; either 
of 'em, one's as bad as the tother, and the place 
is handy for drowning folk. You didn't know it. 
You don't care now you do know it. There's a 
many wenches in the place as stained as that one, 
and there's a many lads as wicked and murderous 
as Dick, and you know nought about 'em. You are 
thinking of your wall-papers.' 

' Come,' interposed Vincent, ' this is none of your 
business anyhow.' 

' No, sir, it's none of my business, that's just it. 
It's the minister's business ; but because he don't do 
it, it lays heavy on my heart, and I can get no 
rest night nor day for thinking of the uncared-for 
wickedness of the men and women I live among, 
who have no one to say to 'em, " Turn ye, turn ye, 
why will ye die ?" ' There was a short silence, while 
the earnest melancholy voice still seemed to ring 
in the ears of the hearers. Septimius alone was 
unmoved ; he had caught an earwig, and was trying 
to fix it under his pocket microscope. 

Just then Alick happened to look away in the 
direction of the post-office, and he saw a stout, 
respectably-dressed woman, leading a child, issue 
from it with a savings bank book in her hand. 
His whole countenance changed ; breaking from the 
group and bounding over the gate, he confronted 



THE INSANE ROOT 73 

the woman, the same person, as Vincent now per- 
ceived, who had been watched by pretty Nannie. 
Wlien Alick appeared in this sudden manner, she 
screamed, and dropping her book, began to run as 
fast as fat, ageing, and rather tipsy legs would let 
her. Alick caught her by the arm and let her 
talk unanswered, while he picked up the book and 
examined it. Then he dragged her back to the 
post-office. After a few minutes the man returned 
to the botanical garden ; he was pale now and 
greatly subdued. 

' I'll do you the red flower, doctor, and maybe 
a few more of 'em. Seems I can't pay back the 
money yet. Maybe I never shall.' 

' I don't want your money, boy,' said the little 
doctor, angrily. ' Your mother seems to have a 
use for it — you'd better keep it for her.' 

' It ain't for her I'd keep it back, sir,' said 
Alick, * but for the little uns. We've saved up, 
father and me, for years for 'em — schooling and 
leather and tidy gowns for the lasses. She's 
muddled most of it away. I suppose I'll do you 
the dozen, doctor, like I undertook.' 

'We might petition the doctor,' said Vincent, 
' that the poly pore should not be one of them.' 
Then Alick went away, leading the now tearful 
woman and the frightened child ; and Vincent asked 
his kinsman what sort of a chap this Alick really was. 



74 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

' Oh, daft/ answered the clergyman, ' quite daft, 
poor fellow. Harmless so long as he isn't con- 
tradicted.' 

' Quite daft,' sighed Miss Verrill ; ' if it were 
not so, he might be a great painter.' 

' Quite daft,' echoed the doctor ; ' wastes his 
time psalm-singing when he might be an apostle of 
vegetarianism.' 

Vincent glanced from one to the other of the 
three, and wondered if daftness were in the Everwell 
air. Perhaps among his other vegetables the doctor 
had grown the ' insane root which takes the reason 
prisoner.' 

' Does he belong to the place ? ' 

* Yes ; at least has been here from a child. The 
mother (fine, healthy, clever woman, drinks her gin 
with a stomach might digest my new antidote 
perfectly) was born and bred here. Some land- 
lubbing chap married her and took her off for a 
year or two. But she came back a widow, and 
married Leach. He was a poor chap without a 
liver, but a better workman than Alick, who is a 
Jack-of-all-trades ; and they held their heads high 
till Leach died, and Alick took a liking for prayers 
and his mother for gin.' 

' I think the girl told me she came from Taver- 
ton?' said Vincent. 

Dr. Verrill came up very close, and holding the 



THE INSANE ROOT 75 

tortoiseshell spectacles to his eyes, stared through 
them at the young man with an annihilating sneer. 
' I never heard of Faverton/ he said in a tone of 
the profoundest contempt. 



CHAPTEE IV 

Decidedly Everwell was getting interesting. 

The next day was Sunday, and Mr. Kane, Lady 
Katharine's brother, who said he liked inspecting 
his fellows, went to church. Vincent contented 
himself with a view of the congregation as it came 
up from the village. He was looking for Nannie 
of course, and presently she came, following the 
widow Leach ; hanging on Alick's arm and surrounded 
by boys and girls of all ages. She was well guarded ; 
no chance of a word with her. But Sir Vincent 
smiled, and Nannie flushed as she dropped her 
curtsy. How much did Alick see of all that, and 
why did Sir Vincent think so much about it after- 
wards ? ' I begin to think,' he said to himself, ' that 
1 have eaten of the insane root too.' 

At luncheon Mr. Kane would talk of the Leach 
family, and the beauty of the red-haired girl. This 
gentleman took a malicious pleasure in making people 
uncomfortable, and pursued the subject chiefly be- 



76 MR. Bryant's mistake 

cause he detected in his nephew a slight impatience 
of it. Vincent was ready to fling his uncle under 
the table ; but he began to wish most heartily that 
he had gone to church himself, and had not left the 
pretty creature to the stare of only those irreverent 
eyes. In the afternoon he shut himself up in the 
library and nursed an ill-humour. Was he going 
to relapse into boredness then ? Heaven forbid ! 
He studied the ordnance map and the plans of his 
estate. He wished himself at Faverton, or elk- 
hunting in Sweden, or love-making in Eome. He 
frowned discontentedly over Georgina's last letter. 
He had nothing to do ; if he went out there was no- 
where to go. There was not a horse in the stable 
fit to ride ; not a soul in the place fit to speak to. 
His mother, dear and honoured, was still absorbed 
in her grief His uncle he detested. Dr. Verrill 
was a buffoon ; Septimius a fool ; Alick Eandle a 
Methodist. 

Vincent thought of the illustrations for the 
vegetarian's great book, and wondered if Alick 
were an embryo artist. Dr. Verrill had called him 
a Jack-of-all-trades ; that was the usual profession 
of a genius who had not hit upon his vocation. 
Why didn't some one snatch him from Methodism 
and have him taught to paint ? Why didn't his 
friends who believed in him, subscribe and send 
him to London ? ' Three years in a drawing-school, 



THE INSANE ROOT 77 

how much would it cost ? ' said Vincent, still ex- 
travagant in his schemes ; * he might excel his 
grandfather, I do think. Shouldn't be surprised if 
I did that myself after three years' instruction. 
Nannie wouldn't want to go and live with him in 
London, I suppose ? ' Then he remembered there 
are trains to London, and that one can visit one's 
friends there with much less conspicuousness than 
in a small place like Everwell. Vincent looked 
round, half expecting to see his uncle ; that sugges- 
tion must surely have come from him. But instead 
there entered to him Alick Handle in person, and 
Sir Vincent jumped up, feeling guilty, he knew not 
why. 

Alick had a glass of water in his hand : very 
yellow and muddy it looked. ' It's from the beck, 

sir,' he explained ; ' I brought it to show you.' 

Vincent, much oppressed, held it up critically to 

the light, smelt it, frowned at it ; tried to look wise 

and decently interested. 

' Taste it, sir,' pursued Alick ; ' it ain't so nasty 

as Miss Verrill's fungus.' 

'Your comparison,' said Vincent, setting the glass 

down, 'has destroyed the little relish I had. Perhaps 

the people here like a flavour in their drink ? They 

don't all get typhoid, I suppose ? ' 

' You are mortal afraid of typhus, sir, if you 

won't take one sup of what your folk drink by 



78 MR. Bryant's MISTAKE 

the gallon/ returned Alick, severely, having no mind 
to the sin of flippancy. 

' I am mortal afraid of a bad taste/ said 
Vincent ; ' pray, do you drink it yourself ? ' 

'No, sir, not as a habit. And I've been down 
with a fever once or twice. But if I was you, and 
my people had no better, I'd at least take my share 
for once. Did you never hear of David, sir, and the 
cup of fresh water he poured on the ground, when 
it was brought from the well of Bethlehem for him ? ' 

'The essence of those pretty stories,' said the gentle- 
man, blandly, 'evaporates when they are imitated. 
I'll send a specimen to an analyst if you like, and 
I will investigate the cause of the beck's evil smell, 
and the reason why the girls can't dip their pails 
higher up the stream. All that might be of some 
use. If I drink this, it will only be to please you : 
by gratifying your lust for revenge, I suppose.' 
And with a wry face, and a laughing eye fixed on 
the oddity, he swallowed the potion. Sir Vincent's 
laughing eye was not a thing Alick understood. 
Still there was some subtle attraction for him 
about his young landlord which kept him hopeful. 
Vincent, too, liked Alick ; and after listening to 
some preliminary abuse of Septimius, allowed him- 
self to be taken out to see the condition of the 
parish on a Sabbath afternoon, — clear proof of 
neglect on the part of its spiritual head. 



THE INSANE ROOT 79 

'An expedition of a piece with your glass of 
dirty water, I suppose ? ' said Vincent, rising, and 
glad of something to do. 

' Sir,' said his guide, reprovingly, 'you'll please not 
to come laughing.' 

* I don't see why you look down on your neigh- 
bours so much,' said Vincent, as they went out ; ' I 
grant you they seem rather a rough lot, and a bit 
wanting in spirit, one or two of them. But a 
man who takes his life in his hand and spends 
his days in incessant toil may, I think, be quite 
as pretty a fellow as you or 1, who sit at home 
thinking.' 

Alick thought he discerned a tendency to per- 
functoriness. He replied eagerly — 

' Ay, sir, yon's the conclusion a fine gentleman, 
who has a grand house, and the world's love, and a 
flesh diet, and wine maybe, comes to naturally. 
You don't know nought about the poor, and you've 
a good heart, and you think : " Oh, poor chaps, 
they're worse off than me, and God ought to judge 
'em easier. They get along wonderful considering 
their odds, and I won't notice their sins too much. 
Give/em some beer." That's what you say. Blake 
now, he don't notice nothing but their sins. You'd 
thmk they was de\ils, not men, to hear him talk. 
But neither the one nor the tother of you think it's 
your business. But it is, sir ; it's your business, and 



8o MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

you'll have to give an account of it some day/ 
ended Alick, impressively. 

He led the way from one den to another of that 
excessively dirty village, — dirtier, both actually and 
metaphorically, than it had any right to be on that 
fair hillside, away from the seething corruptions of 
great cities, where the power of the strong redoubles 
the weakness of the weak. The new landlord saw 
bare walls and gaping roofs, haunts of fever and 
sinks of vice, — all very terrible to Alick Eandle's 
heated imagination. Alick was stung by the bad 
name Everwell had acquired on the coast, and wore 
magnifying glasses when he looked at the evils 
round his home, — dirt and rags, starvation and much 
disease, free love, fighting; cursing, and endless 
drink. With an air of melancholy triumph he led 
his landlord from gloomy hole to noisome corner, 
and could not imagine what the man was made of 
that he inspected it all with an air of mere curiosity 
and of almost amused toleration. 

' I have seen many strange races,' he said, 
lighting a cigar, 'and here I have found one 
barbarous and heathen people more.' 

' Sir ! sir ! ' ejaculated the carpenter. 

' It is all like Miss Verrill's polypore pie. / 
don't want to eat it, but it amuses me immensely 
that any one should be found to prefer that flavour.' 

' Sir ! sir ! ' cried Alick again, ' if these are your 



THE INSANE ROOT 81 

thoughts, all my hopes are vain, and you'll only be 
one evil-doer in Everwell the more.' 

' Evil-doer ? Oh, humbug. Live and let live, 
that's my plan.' 

' But it's your own property, sir,' cried Alick. 

' Yes, yes,' returned Vincent, impatiently ; ' don't 
you see I haven't looked into the matter, and I don't 
know what to think of it ? It's only fools who talk 
and act when they don't understand.' 

And he strode on again, wishing to get rid of the 
importunate Alick, and saying to himself, ' Everwell 
is a pigsty ; but Cookham and Company bid one 
before all things preserve ancient monuments. And 
what can any one do without money ? ' 

' Look there, sir ! ' said Alick, interrupting his 
meditations. A barrow laden with pig-wash and 
the refuse of herrings was toiling up the steep lane, 
and drawn by a starved and dying donkey, flogged 
unmercifully by one of the lean, large-headed failures 
of children, only just clever enough to guide the 
creature's steps. Blood poured from the beast's bony 
sides, and he shook in every limb, while still the 
blows and accompanying curses fell fast and thick. 
* Look there, sir ! ' said Alick, in whose eyes shone 
a sort of wild delight that the white-handed gentle- 
man should see the sordid exhibition. Vincent 
watched without sign of emotion. The beast, 
patient, uncomplaining, doing his best, made one 

VOL. I 6 



82 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

superasinine struggle, slipped and fell — to rise no 
more. A barrel rolled from the rickety cart, and 
poured out its unsavoury contents. The boy uttered 
a yell of dismay ; then with the butt end of the 
whip would have struck the dying brute across the 
eyes, but that Vincent, without a word, knocked the 
weapon up with that elegant little cane of his, at 
which Alick had been inwardly railing, as of a piece 
with the cigar and the general indifference. 

On one side of the street was the beer-house ; 
at this moment there reeled out of it a drunken 
man, his step guided by a slattern, just one degree 
soberer. She laughed at the prostrate animal and 
the terrified child. But the man, after a stupid 
gaze, seemed to recognise with sobering effect that 
the cart and the donkey and the boy belonged to 
himself He broke from the woman, and rushing 
forward, seized the child by the hair, and snatching 
the whip, mid a volley of execrations, beat him, as 
he himself had beaten the dying animal. The boy 
screamed, then turned white and sick and silent. 
The woman laughed again. 

Vincent intervened now, delivered the child, and 
handed him to Alick. In an instant, like flies 
round a carcass, the people in tlie drinking shop 
and from the doorsteps had gathered round their 
landlord with undisguised hostility in word and 
look. Vincent folded his arms and stood in the 



THE INSANE ROOT 83 

middle of the group, looking from one to the other, 
his lip curling, ready to defend himself and the boy 
and the dead donkey if need be. The crowd in 
their drunken state had lost any awe they might 
naturally feel for their landlord, and remembered 
only that he had ' come interfering,' and that they 
hated all gentlefolks, and this one and his fathers in 
particular ; nevertheless he had settled the boy's 
tyrant in a manner that made no one very anxious 
to be the first assailant. ' Well ? ' said the gentle- 
man at last, ' may I ask what you want ? ' 

So far Alick, very much astonished by his 
apathetic scholar's leap into action, had merely 
watched the progress of events. He advanced now 
with the intention of making his well-known and 
authoritative voice heard. But he was prevented. 
A big young fellow, who seemed at once more 
sober and more fierce than the rest, and on whom 
Vincent had been keeping his eye, suddenly faced 
round and dealt Alick, who was thin and weak and 
familiar, the blow in the face which he had feared to 
give the gentleman. Vincent, his eye flashing, cleared 
himself a passage through the crowd and felled the 
assailant. There was a little movement among the 
spectators, which told they could understand and 
reverence strength of limb if nothing else. Vincent 
laughed. ' You think I am going to beat you ? I 
see your ears going back like a whipped spaniel. I 



S4 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

do not strike a man when he is down. You shall 
get up presently ; and then you shall apologise to 
Alick Eandle, or, by Heaven, I will take you by 
the collar and march you off myself to the nearest 
police station and give you in charge for assault.' 

And then an old man, who was very drunk, 
chimed in with language so unsavoury that one of 
the women begged Alick's intervention. 

' Stop that ! ' said Vincent ; and as the offence 
was repeated, ordered two of the bystanders, whom 
he remembered having conquered on the boat- 
wreck night, to remove the offender. There was a 
moment's hesitation, followed by obedience, and 
Vincent threw a reassuring smile at Alick, who was 
looking quite bewildered and alarmed. 

Vincent now allowed his victim to rise, and bid 
him go and ask Mr. Eandle's pardon, which was done ; 
while the gentleman, brushing the dust from his 
sleeve, stood in the middle of the crowd, afraid of 
him now. He then made a speech — the last thing 
be had intended to do. 

' Now listen. I hope that is the last time I 
shall have to play policeman to my own people. 
You have seen I can strike, and you have seen the 
kind of thing I strike for. Take care how you pro- 
voke me again. Now I should like to shake hands 
with each one of you. I am a human being too,' 
said Vincent, with a smile ; ' what is there in 



THE INSANE ROOT 85 

my appearance to warrant these scowls you treat 
me to ? Come, let us all drink each other's healths 
before we part ' 

But here Alick Eandle interrupted. ' No, sir, 
there's been a deal too much drinking already ; I 
hope you'll set your face against that. We'll have 
no drinking of healths to-night, if you please, sir.' 

After handing magnificently a large coin to the 
boy of the donkey, Vincent retired with Alick, the 
crowd watching them silently as long as they were 
in sight. 

' Sir, sir,' said the reformer in a tone of distress, 
' I doubt it was the old Adam brought your fists out 
so lightly.' 

For all his impatience with Alick, Vincent 
Leicester had not despised that excursion. He was 
silent and moody all the evening, perhaps feeling 
growing pains. That tiresome old question was 
forcing itself on his notice, 'Am I my brother's 
keeper ? ' I suppose it was something to do with 
this question that set him, after this studying to 
Lady Katharine's awe, horrible tomes on political 
economy, land improvement, the laws of property, 
and the investment of money. He frowned, and 
bit his nails over them, and grew surly ; and his 
gentle mother took them in horror. But he per- 
severed. He conversed also much with Blake, who 
was repugnant to him, but had good knowledge of 



86 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

business ; and with Mr. Kane, who could discuss a 
theory far more ingeniously than his nephew ; and 
always much with Alick, who knew the place, was per- 
fectly definite in his views, and impressed Vincent a 
great deal more than either the one or the other knew. 
And the son was deaf to all Lady Katharine's hints 
that he had been long enough now at Everwell, and 
would be able to settle his affairs far more comfort- 
ably ' at home.' It was all rather wearisome ; but 
Vincent Leicester had begun to grow, and was 
sending down roots slender enough as yet, but 
which were taking hold of the ground here in Ever- 
well. It was not a kindly soil, and you are not to 
expect that the first green upward shoots will be 
very straight, or very robust, or very fair. 



CHAPTEE V 

Gardante, Parlante, Jocante, the first three of those 
gallant six whom Britomart disarmed and took 
into her service ; — Vincent Leicester had not as yet 
come to fair fight with any but Number One, 
that 'jolly person and of comely vew,' whom he 
now claimed as his liegeman and turned to account 
whenever opportunity served. Eising one morning 
more than usually bold and for adventure athirst. 



THE INSANE ROOT 87 

he resolved to challenge and disarm Parlante, the 
stout knight who now headed the defence of Castle 
Joyeous. Jocante would stand or fall with his 
brother ; but far be it from me to hint that Sir 
Vincent had any designs for to-day against the fourth 
great champion; he who did himself even to Britomart 
'most courteous shew/ and who therefore hides in 
the background till his time for action comes, and 
dislikes all braying of trumpets, concourse of spec- 
tators, empty parade, and haste alarming and un- 
seemly. Yet is he a highly formidable personage, 
and had Vincent been aware that he also would 
have to be encountered, he might have thought 
twice before engaging with the less redoubtable 
brethren. But what young and venturesome knight, 
yearning ' to prove his puissance in battell brave,' 
was ever renowned for foresight and caution ? He 
saw the dim, mist-encircled form of Castle Joyeous 
before him, and he had a fancy for Parlante as a 
liegeman. Armed with spear and shield, he mounted 
his steed and addressed himself to battle. 

Which is to say, that one day Sir Vincent Leicester 
called at Mrs. Leach's house with its little shop and 
decent parlour ; asking indeed for his friend Alick 
the carpenter (whom he guessed to be absent), but 
with the intent to have not only a comfortable look 
at, but a comfortable talk to, the beautiful Nannie. 
The Leaches, of course, pertained to the highest 



.88 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

Everwell society, Alick being the only member of 
the family who mixed with the seafarers, and that 
as a missionary. Mrs. Leach, at home, was so tidy 
and respectable that Vincent did not for a moment 
recognise the woman he had seen with Alick in dis- 
grace at the post-ofifice ; the inevitable Jimmy was 
pulling at her gown, and the neat, bright little par- 
lour seemed to the inexperienced visitor crammed 
with children of all ages. Nevertheless he noted at 
once that Nannie sat by the window near the linnet 
and the row of flower-pots, reading a book. Mrs. 
Leach was voluble, and chattered a great lamenta- 
tion over her eldest son when Vincent asked for him. 
'Dear, dear, the trouble we have had all our 
lives with that poor boy. You see, sir, with poor 
folk like we it makes a difference if a man can't 
work hard, and him often requiring the doctor too. 
La now, sir, you thought he was rich with all those 
workmen ? that's the way poor Alick takes people 
in. It ain't in him to be quite truthful like his 
mother. Alick keeps half those lads out of charity; 
and among 'em they about do the work and earn 
the wage of one good workman like my poor second 
husband, gone to glory with my first one. I don't 
like to say it to Alick, sir ; it hurts his feelings, but 
what with his weakness and his head, and all he 
gives to the missionaries, we're getting poorer and 
poorer, so my husbands would weep in their graves 



THE INSANE ROOT 89 

to see us. My poor Leach did most of the handy 
work of the place, but Alick, what with his health, 
couldn't keep his stepfather's customers. There's 
Henderson, Blake employs him, and John Lamprey, 
Mr. Sandford's got to think a deal of him. "Mother," 
says Alick, " it's spite against me, I do believe," for 
we are pious people, sir, such as never was pleasing 
in the world, like the Bible says. But I don't like 
to answer him, " My poor lad, it may be spite, and it 
may be piety, and it may be as you're a born hartist 
(which he is, sir) like your grandfather, but it's your 
head as well." He ain't fond of work, sir, that's 
where it is. Only this morning I heard him say of a 
new linen cupboard for Mrs. Sandford, as it was 
" soulless." That's a bad word, sir, for a man to use 
about his business.' 

Vincent had heard one phrase in ten. He was 
looking at Nannie. 

All this time she had sat with eyes bent demurely 
on her book ; but a smile was growing on her lips, 
which the visitor rashly surmised to have some con- 
nection with his presence. It was really caused, 
however, by admiration of Mrs. Leach's exaggeration, 
and a fear that the gentleman was credulous. ' Alick's 
fond of that word " soulless," ' she said, suddenly, 
raising her charming face and looking at Sir Vincent; 
* he doesn't mean no harm by it ! ' Vincent crossed 
to her end of the room at once. 



90 MR. BR YANT S MISTAKE 

At this moment Mr. Sandford himself came into 
the shop, to whom went Mrs. Leach. Jimmy, hav- 
ing strayed out of the room, tumbled downstairs and 
set up a howl, the bigger children ran to his assist- 
ance, and Nannie was left alone with the gentleman, 
and the baby, who was too small to be abandoned. 
Could Fortune have been kinder ? Vincent was so 
pleased that it was some moments before he remem- 
bered even to speak. 

* I suppose Alick does whatever you tell him ? ' 
he said at last. 

' I, sir ? ' 

' Yes ; he couldn't refuse you anything.' 

The girl, evidently unused to this tone, raised 
two wondering eyes to his ; she said gravely, ' Sir ? 

Vincent had been marvelling at her hair already, 
which was soft and shining and curly ; not carroty 
in the least, but of that rare dark red the shadows 
of which have a hint of purple ; now he saw with 
fresh delight what indeed he already knew, that her 
eyes were not gray like Alick's, but of the real dark 
blue which most kittens and babies lose at a month 
old ; under dark lashes and very fine, arched eye- 
brows. That grave little reply gave him a sense of 
having said something stupid, and he changed his 
tone, and asked her what she was reading so dili- 
gently. He had expected some flimsy romance or 
collection of hymns, accordant with the family piety. 



THE INSANE ROOT 9^ 

But the cream-coloured pamphlet proved to be nothing 
less than a number of Mr. Euskin's Fors Clavigera. 

*We got it from the pedlar/ explained iSTannie 
apologetically, in answer to Vincent's surprise. 
'Alick thought we ought to read it, because it's 
written to the workmen of Great Britain. Alick 
thought it would be tracts which would do to lend 
about. But Mr. Ptuskin doesn't seem quite a tract 
writer. Alick doesn't believe he knows anything 
about workmen ! ' she ended, indignantly. 

* Isn't it rather dull reading for you ? ' asked 
Vincent, smiling at her confidentially, for he remem- 
bered that first smile of hers, and saw a quaint, 
slightly humorous expression about the corners of 
her pretty mouth, which pleased him. 

' Oh no, sir ! I like it because it seems all about 
a different kind of life than ours. There are some 
such pretty lines here by a Mr. Pope about some 
horses who wouldn't go any farther because their 
master was dead, but grew like monuments on a 
hero's grave. I liked that.' 

' I will lend you that book of Mr. Pope's. You 
will find some pretty stories in it,' said Vincent. 

' Oh, thank you ! ' cried Nannie, clasping her 
hands in an ecstasy. 

There was a silence, and Vincent was much 
afraid she was going to run away after the stout 
mother. ' Show me some of Alick's drawings,' he 



92 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

said, desperately. ' Miss Verrill says he ought not to 
be a workman but a painter.' 

' Oh ! ' cried Nannie, jumping up, for he had hit 
upon an exciting subject, ' that is what Alick used 
to wish — wish — till he made himself sick with 
wishing ! Now he has taken to believe it idle and 
idolatrous, but I know — I hnow he will never be 
happy till he does that and nothing else.' 

' What ! flowers for Dr. Verrill ? ' 

' Oh no ! His other pictures are much more 
beautiful.' There was a case of Alick's productions 
under the little sofa, and so built in with irrelevant 
and cumbrous articles that Vincent had to assist in 
getting it out, which brought their two heads very 
near together for a moment, and the exertion made 
the young girl very becomingly rosy. 

* Are they not mry beautiful ? ' cried Nannie 
reverentially, her eyes glowing as she handed one 
picture after another to the visitor. 

And Vincent was really interested, not only by 
the intrinsic merit of the sketches, but because they 
gave a regular biography of the artist, the point of 
Alick's 'conversion' being plainly marked. The 
drawings of earlier date than that event were studies 
as of one seriously desiring progress ; bits of flowers, 
or waves or buildings, hands or feet, ears or noses, 
evidently sketched from life and repeated again and 
again in the pursuit of perfection ; then came a few 



THE INSANE ROOT 93 

rough compositions on brown paper or old cardboard, 
— mostly scenes of men drinking, fighting, and such 
like, familiar enough at Everwell. But the draw- 
ings executed after he became ' serious ' were either 
practical designs for decoration or painstaking illus- 
trations of the Bible, the expressions of the faces 
treated with exaggerated care, and the moral of the 
particular scene depicted brought into high relief, 
and generally ^\Titten as well on a scroll in some one's 
hand, or appearing in flame, on sky or wall, in the 
words of a text. There was considerable merit in 
the execution, and a sort of gloomy poetry in the 
designs, which had some of the impressiveness of 
the village reformer's earnest, melancholy voice. 

' Are they not very beautiful ?' cried Nannie ; and 
Vincent, after an amazed silence, for he had not ex- 
pected much from the drawings, and had only asked 
for them as an excuse for lingering with the pretty 
show-woman, replied — 

' I am no judge, but certainly they do seem 
to me — talented. Quite as clever as your grand- 
father's, for instance,' he added, with a smile. 

' Do you really think so ? ' cried the radiant 
Nannie, breathlessly. * Oh, do let me run down to 
the workshop and make Alick come up.' 

' No, no, wait,' said Vincent in dismay, choosing 
two of the larger pictures and laying them aside. 
' May I buy these, do you think ? ' he asked. 



94 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

' Oil no, sir/ said Nannie ; * at least, I mean you 
must ask Alick.' 

' If you can keep a secret/ said Vincent, ' I will 
tell you why I want them/ 

Nannie, much excited, stood with locked hands 
and sparkling eyes fixed on his. Vincent was 
thinking a great deal more of her than of what he 
was saying ; this device of the pictures had an- 
swered beautifully ; it had induced a positive inti- 
macy. * I might perhaps find some way of assisting 
Alick to become a painter,' said Vincent. ' But 
first I must be quite sure he is clever enough to 
succeed ; to make a living by it ; do you see ? If 
you will lend me these I will send them to a friend 
who is a good judge, and who will advise me.' 

' Oh, sir, yes ! Please take them ! Oh, you are 
good ! ' cried Nannie, putting them into his hands 
eagerly. Vincent caught her fingers and imprisoned 
them for a moment. His heart was beating with 
unwonted excitement — not at all about Alick. 

' Now mind, not one word to any one,' he said. 
' And I will bring you Mr. Pope's story-book. Shall 
I find you at home any time V 

' Yes, sir, generally at this time,' said Nannie, 
' unless when I go down on the shore.' 

Vincent remembered how he had thought of 
a stroll on the shore some afternoon too, and 
flushed a little, with a momentary idea of asking 



THE INSANE ROOT 95 

her to meet him there. But one of the children 
came in and pulled the girl's sleeve, and said — 

' Nannie, mother's gone out,' which made her for 
some reason look rather uneasy and impatient, so 
that Vincent, sorely tempted to stay, judged it her 
wish that he should take his leave ; and did so, 
without remembering to give any message for Alick 
that would account for his visit. 

' She is pretty enough for anything,' said Vincent 
to himself. 

On entering, he went straight to the library, and 
found a small copy of Mr. Pope's pretty poem ; he 
thought of taking it to her at once, but reflected 
that Alick would probably be home by this time, 
and much in the way. ' He would tell her it was 
wicked heathen stuff,' said Vincent to himself. 
* I suppose she wouldn't go down on the scar so late 
as this ? Shall I just wander round on the chance ? 
Xo, I have an impression that I had better not. 
I will take the book when I return the drawings, 
as I told her. What an inspiration that matter of 
the drawings was ! ' Vincent put the book in his 
pocket and carried it about till the presentation day 
came. Still he felt rather oppressed by his rash 
promises about Alick. Going into the drawing- 
room he threw the specimen pictures on the table 
for criticism. Lady Katharine, thinking they were 
her son's own doing, praised them extravagantly, 



96 MR. Bryant's mistake 

and Mr. Kane, who knew something of drawing, as 
he did of most things, was a good deal impressed, 
even when he heard they were Alick Handle's. 
Vincent was in high good humour with himself and 
everybody ; charmed his mother (who was generally 
rather afraid of him), and went about whistling and 
putting various things to rights, which till to-night 
had been to him mere sources of disgust and boredom. 
He also wrote to Georgina quite an amusing letter 
about his shipwreck adventure. Dr. Verrill and the 
great work on vegetables, the deformed genius who 
thought himself a missionary, and the preposterously 
dirty village. Naturally, however, he made no 
allusion to the girl with the red hair. And, puzzled 
what to do with the drawings, he sent them to 
Georgina to show Lord Cookham, who set up to be 
a connoisseur and a patron of needy artists, and was 
the nearest approach to a painter among the acquaint- 
ances of Vincent Leicester, the Philistine. On the 
morrow he went up for a few days to town. 



CHAPTEE VI 

When Alick Eandle came in from his work he 
found Nannie walking up and down the room trying 
to still the baby, who was crying for his mother, 



THE INSANE ROOT 97 

while the boys were clamouring for supper and 
quarrelling with Sally and Liz, unskilfully preparing 
it. Alick listened to the noise for a minute, looking 
as if his head would burst ; then went into the yard 
to wash his hands, calling Nannie to him and 
bidding her leave the screamer with Sally. 

' I'm bound to tell you all the troubles, Nan,' he 
said, with a sad smile ; ' here's Tom been getting into 
scrapes again ; and I find mother's drawn out nigh 
all the savings, and has a bill to the butcher as 
well. She'll have us to the poorhouse some day.' 

* The butcher's me ! ' cried Nannie gaily ; ' I cost 
you a lot ! I'm too hungry. Wouldn't you like 
me to go away home ? ' 

' Lass/ cried Alick, ' if you go we'll be ruined 
outright.' 

' Maybe father would send some money for my 
butcher,' suggested Nannie. 

' Don't go asking him. He might bid you back, 
and I ain't an innkeeper.' 

' Then we must eat herrings like the other folk 
here. You may talk for a week, Alick, but you'll 
never get me to believe it's good religion to waste 
what's good food, when it's dead already. If I were 
a herring I'd a deal sooner be eaten after I'm dead 
by a nice clean man, than gobbled up alive by a 
dirty whale. Herrings are nigh as nourishing 
as mutton, which is dear as well as murderous ; 

VOL. I 7 



98 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

and a deal solider, and cheaper too than cauli- 
flower.' 

' I never said it was downright wicked, Nan/ 
said Alick, catching her infectious smile ; ' it don't 
agree with me, that's all. But I'd rather we all 
eat mutton every day of our lives than have you go 
away from us, Nannie.' 

' Didn't I come here because I l%ked it, Alick ? ' 
said the girl. It was true, thought this last visit 
to Everwell had not been without its anxieties. 
Formerly she had been treated like a little queen, 
when her daintiness had come as a favour to visit 
dear, loving, funny Aunt Leach. But this time Alick 
had brought her to make herself useful, at the time 
when his stepfather's slow disease had worn out his 
wife's patience, so that she had to console herself 
with gin ; and the children were too young to be 
any good ; and Alick himself had as much as he could 
manage in trying to keep Leach's business together; 
and money was getting scarce, and it was beginning 
to be said that ' they boasting folk of Leaches was 
no different in ways or in luck from their neighbours.' 
Nannie, not particularly happy in her home at 
Faverton, where no one treated her with any distinc- 
tion at all, never refused her cousin Alick ; so she 
had come to Everwell for an indefinite stay ; and 
at sixteen had been introduced to the cares and 
anxieties of at least other people's lives. 



THE INSANE ROOT 99 

' Alick/ said Nannie, rather nervously, * I don't 
want to vex you, lad, but she's gone out.' He 
turned on her sharply, and she began to explain 
hastily : ' Sir Vincent was here, Alick, and I ' 

' Sir Vincent here ? ' interrupted Alick ; ' what 
call had he to come here, I'd like to know ? ' 

' He was looking for you. Oh, Alick, how nice 
he is ! What's the matter, lad ? ' 

' / never asked him here. Well, go on.' 

' He was talking to me. He promised to bring 
me a book. Aunt went away and then ' 

* Mother went away and left him with you ? ' 

' Yes, Jimmy was crying or something. I didn't 
notice. And then she slipped out, and I didn't know 
for a long time ; not till the gentleman was gone.' 

Alick took the girl by the arms and turned her 
round to look at her face. 

' For a long time ? What did the gentleman 
talk about, eh ? ' 

' Why I thought you liked him ! ' exclaimed 
Nannie ; then she remembered her delightful secret, 
and hesitated and coloured. ' He talked; — about 
you, Alick.' 

He perceived her embarrassment. 

Before very long Mrs. Leach came in, her face 
flushed, and her eyes a little blurred and wandering. 
But she had assumed an air of great dignity, and 
was bent upon proving herself a model of sobriety. 



loo MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

She removed her bonnet, put her cap on back to front, 
and taking the baby, sat down before the fire, to which 
she administered an unnecessary poke, explaining that 
she had been buying yarn from her friend Mrs. Law, 
whose ' chimley ' clock had run down. Conversa- 
tion Mrs. Leach knew was her forte, so she conversed 
much this evening to ensure respect ; and it would 
have required a duller sense of humour than Nannie's 
not occasionally to smile at her discourse. Alick saw 
nothing amusing in it. He sat with frowning eyes 
piecing together some broken oak carving he had 
bought at an auction for Mr. Sandford, and Nannie, 
at his side, was trying to interest him in Mr. Pope's 
lines, quoted in the tract to workmen. 

' Hold your noise,' said Alick once or twice to 
the clamorous children, and ordered them to bed, — 
a command to which they paid no attention. 

* Yes, Mary Anne, my dear,' said Mrs. Leach, 
* you ought to mind your brother when he speaks. 
I always obeyed my father when I was a girl. 
He was a great hartist. And / hadn't no good 
mother, Sally, when I was a girl to learn me my 
duty, like you have. I was telling you, Nannie, 
my dear, I wouldn't go with them Forrester girls, 
nor keep company with their brother, gin I was 
you/ 

Neither Nannie nor Alick looked round, but 
they both heard this remark with great indignation. 



THE INSANE ROOT loi 

' Eobert, his name is/ continued Mrs. Leach ; 
' I knew his uncle — Eobert Forrester he was 
too. That showed how I vallied my good father 
and minded what he said. " Ann, lass," says he, 
" thou must choose between me and Eobert." 
" Father," says I, " I will kape tluy. I cannot lose 
my good father, not for Eobert nor no one. I've 
minded him since I were born, and I'll mind 
him now." Nannie, my dear, I'd have had a good 
husband if I'd married Eobert. And I hope 
you'll have the same, my dear, and a healthier 
man than Jim Leach or Jim Eandle either, who 
held out a shorter time than Leach, for that 
matter.' 

' There, go to bed, you children,' interrupted Alick 
angrily. ' Mother, Nannie, send 'em off, will you ? ' 

' My dears, mind your good brother,' said Mrs. 
Leach, sleepily ; and Nannie enforcing the command 
this time, the boys set off for a stroll and the girls 
went upstairs, leaving only Jimmy and the baby. 
Mrs. Leach rose to take these little ones also, but 
she trod upon Jimmy, who had dropped asleep on 
the floor ; alarmed by which misadventure, she gave 
a great lurch and nearly threw the baby into the 
fire. Nannie, terrified, sprang to her assistance and 
conveyed away the two little things herself, Mrs. 
Leach giving many directions as she sank back 
rather suddenly into her chair. 



I02 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

Alick was left alone with his mother ; he pushed 
his work aside and came over choking with 
indignation. 

'What do you mean, mother, by talking that 
rubbish to Nannie about keeping company ? ' 

'Eh, my poor lad, I was speaking to Sally as 
well, for shey's growing a big girl too, and will have 
to be looking about her. And Nannie's of an age 
now to have followers and must be taught, as she's 
no good mother of her own, to choose 'em out properly.' 

' I won't have the word spoke to Nannie.' Mrs. 
Leach nodded her head. 

' She'll have 'em without speaking, she will. She 
ain't an ugly lass. I could see the genelman 
thought so.' 

' What gentleman ? ' 

' Eh ? Our own Sir Vincent. A fine handsome 
man hey is. I do like an 'andsome male ; I must say 
I do, even at my time of life. And so in course 
does Nannie, at hers. Maybe they've spoke to each 
other afore now in Faverton.' 

' Did Sir Vincent make out I had asked him 
to come, that he forced his way in here ? ' asked 
Alick, abruptly. 

' Well, my poor lad, if hey hadn't said so, do you 
suppose I'd have petitioned him in ? I thought 
maybe he'd expressed to you an ammiration for 
Nannie. La now, I could see he ammired her! 



THE INSANE ROOT 103 

I know what's what. I had a many ammirers my- 
self. There was Eobert Forrester and Ben Welby 
and ' 

' Mother, aren't you ashamed ? ' cried Alick, and 
she returned to her muttons with hasty apology. 

' Yes, yes, I remember what I was talking about. 
Nan looked up very pleasant at him, pretty dear, 
and he went away pleased, he did, a-fingering them 
little things she give him. I see him, I did, afore I 
stepped oop to Mrs. Law,' she maundered on, nodding 
her head mysteriously and laughing to herself 
Alick, white, gasping, shook her arm roughly. 

' What did Xannie give him ? ' he shouted. 
Mrs. Leach looked up terrified. 

' Oh my ! my ! Alick, what's the matter ? Don't 
frighten me like this. I can't abear it. Nannie, 
Nannie,' she called, ' come down ! come to Alick ! 
He's took with summat the matter with him ! ' 

Nannie's light foot came flying down the steep 
stair as Alick dropped his mother's arm and 
pushed her back into the chair. 

' I'm a fool to waste words on you,' he said, and 
meeting Nannie, he took her by the shoulders with 
a grasp more violent than he knew, and offensive to 
her. 

' What did you give Sir Vincent Leicester to-day, 
Nannie ? ' he questioned 

The girl remembered her promise, and she was 



104 MR, BRYANTS MISTAKE 

just enough annoyed with Alick to be glad she 
couldn't tell him what he wanted to know. She 
temporised. 

' I — I didn't give him anything,' she stammered, 
with an attempt at a smile, mistaken if, by its 
means, she hoped to pacify her cousin. Ahck let 
her shoulder go, and brought his hand down on her 
arm with a force which might have been called a 
blow had Nannie chosen to regard it in that light. 

' It's a lie ! ' he said angrily, not ha^dng noticed 
her emphasis. Nannie shook his hand off and 
moved quietly nearer to her aunt. 

'I don't lie, Alick. You had ought to know 
that by this time. I didn't give Sir Vincent any- 
thing, and I'm not going to tell you what I lent 
him.' 

' Lent ? that's worse. He means to bring it 
back to you, does he ? ' 

*Ay, he'll come back,' chimed in Mrs. Leach, 
who had lost the thread of the argument, and was 
anxious to please her son by agreeing with him. 

' What was it you lent him, Nannie ? ' 

' I'm not going to tell you. Maybe you could 
find out if you chose. I don't see what you are in 
such a temper about, Alick, and I'm not going to 
help you out of it. Let me pass, if you please.' 

Nevertheless Nannie paused at the foot of the 
stair, a little sorry. ' Sir Vincent will tell you him- 



THE INSAXE ROOT 105 

self, Alick, when tie brings the things back,' she 
said. 

' I won't never speak to him again," said the 
man, ' a d — d scoundrel" 

* Alick ! I think you are forgetting/ 

' Leastways you shan't, Nan. Ay, I'll see him 
to-morrow and give him my miad.' 

Xannie had no idea what it was all about, but 
she knew her cousin well and saw no good in 
arguing with him. She returned to the children. 
Then IMrs. Leach mtu-mtired sleepily, ' There ain't 
never no good, Alick, in impudence to gentlefolks. 
You lave him to Xannie and mev.' 



CHAPTEE VII 

' To be wroth with one we love doth work like 
madness in the brain,' and Alick Handle had no pre- 
disposition to sanity. He was not, indeed, the man 
to arrive at sober views on any matter iu which his 
feelings were concerned. That night he did not sleep. 
The self-taught grandson of the local painter was 
bom artist enough to be haunted in visible shape 
by scenes or faces which excited his imagination. 
While Xannie was repeating Mr. Pope's pretty 
Hnes about the divine horses transfixed by grief. 



io6 MR. Bryant's mistake 

Alick saw them, and only by an effort could he rid 
himself of their importunate phantasms. But to- 
night it was no fanciful coursers of heavenly breed 
which forced themselves before his inward eye, 
torment of his solitude. He saw Nannie ; child 
and girl ; his playmate, his tyrant, his slave, his 
sister. Sister ? No, never again. He was staring 
at a haunting fancy of Nannie in virginal white, but 
with the garland on her hair which betokened a 
bride, and she was leaning towards him with her 
sweet lips pouted for a kiss. ' She is not my sister. 
She is my love, my sweetheart, my wife! 

The idea was not new to him, but he had 
never faced it before. For Alick had not been 
clear that it would be right for him to marry. The 
instinct of the religious fanatic turns to celibacy as 
it turns to fasting. Fasting came natural to Alick ; 
as he said naively, neither fish nor flesh agreed very 
well with him, and it was quite true that he was 
in a ' more compact and pious frame of mind ' — 
' nearer to God,' as he phrased it — when his digest- 
ive apparatus did its work unobtrusively. And for 
long it had seemed to Alick that celibacy was to be 
as natural to him as a spare diet. He looked at 
his contemptible appearance, and reflected that he 
was not the man to find favour in the eyes of 
women. And it had appeared to Alick, as to many 
another, very easy and not unadvisable to renounce 



THE INSANE ROOT 107 

the joys of Love when as yet none of the blind boy's 
arrows had wounded his heart. For when Alick 
had gone to Faverton Farm to fetch Nannie to his 
mother's assistance — Nannie, whom he had last seen 
a dear, good, clever little maid of thirteen — he had 
thought of her as a sister ; gentler and prettier than 
Sally or Liz. But Nannie had not been long at 
Everwell, and necessarily on terms of close intimacy 
with her cousin, before Alick found out that a lovely 
girl of sixteen is not, like a child, to be quickly and 
comfortably disposed of as an adopted sister. He 
reopened that question of celibacy ; prayed for 
guidance ; began to think his view unscriptural, 
or himself unworthy to rank with those highest 
and holiest ones called to virginity, and to follow 
the Lamb whithersoever He went. His passion for 
Nannie grew, but he was only dimly conscious of it 
himself, and never hinted at it to any one. He 
was sufficiently aware of his ill-controlled nature to 
see that if he were not to marry the girl at once, 
and yet she were to remain under his mother's roof, 
there must be no suggestion of sweethearting 
between them. Yet to-night — to-night with that 
sweet vision of the girl with the bridal garland 
before his eyes, he confessed to himself that he did 
intend to marry her, and he saw in the vision a sign 
that his desire was the will of Heaven. 

But suddenly as in a dream a new picture pre- 



io8 MR. Bryant's MISTAKE 

sen ted itself. Nannie again, bTit in her homely 
everyday frock, with her girlish figure and her red 
hair, sitting on a high chair by the window, Mr. 
Raskin's tract in her hand, but listening playfully, 
joyously, to the man standing at her side, who was 
leaning towards her and smiling as he talked ; not 
Alick himself, lean, crooked, undesirable ; no, but 
strong, important, aggressive, dropped like an angel 
out of another sphere ; Sir Vincent Leicester, whose 
smiling eye and jesting tongue and general deficiency 
of seriousness and principle had already made the 
evangelist very suspicious. Alick drew his breath 
hard as he tossed and tossed on his hard pallet ; 
and thought of his mother's tipsy suggestions ; and 
of Nannie's undeniable duplicity ; of the once or 
twice Sir Vincent rather lightly had mentioned the 
fair girl ; his admiring bow to her on Sunday, and her 
hlush and involuntary smile ; and so on, till he had 
worked himself into a fever of jealousy and suspicion. 
Perhaps he fell asleep for a minute or two ; at 
any rate another picture, dream, or waking vision 
possessed his eyes. It was memory this time of a 
veritable occurrence, a scene he himself had wit- 
nessed, and which he intended to paint some day ; 
for a sermon, and in colours mixed in blood. Nannie 
did not appear in it. Dear no ! There was a dark 
night, a tossing sea, black and mysterious ; a crowd 
on the rock below Dr. Verrill's cottage. And in 



THE INSANE ROOT 109 

the centre of the crowd a drowned woman — Dick 
Boulter's lass ; murdered perhaps ; by herself, it 
might be, or by her lover, who could tell ? Ah, 
that pale, stiff corpse — the eyes open with the last 
wild look of blinding horror — the mouth open for 
its last despairing yell; the girl, young as Nannie, 
fair as she, loved as passionately ! And Dick 
Boulter was there, looking at her; and the other 
lover, who had stolen her, was there ; and one of 
them, perhaps, had been a murderer, though they 
would go fishing to-morrow as usual, and live side 
by side at Everwell still ! Among such people 
Alick lived, tormented as a righteous soul in hell. 

To-night, looking at this dark picture of his 
memory, he seemed to see another figure in it — a 
gentleman who had paused to watch and to wonder, 
curious, half sympathetic, half disgusted, half indif- 
ferent and apart, like a spectator at a playhouse. 
Sir Vincent Leicester, with his curled lip and good 
clothes and air of breeding and reputation, as he had 
worn them when the boy had beaten the starved 
donkey to death. And he, Alick, who had drawn 
the drowned woman from the waves, was hovering 
round now, like an evil spirit, and was confronting 
the heartless gentleman and asking him, 'What 
doest thou here ? ' And then — surely all this was 
mere feverish dreaming that the pictures, like dis- 
solving views, melted thus into each other ? — Dick 



no MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

Boulter's rival had disappeared, and Sir Vincent 
was somehow in his place ; and Alick was still con- 
fronting him ; and the dark, soaking tresses of the 
lost girl were burning red before his eyes ; and the 
large, coarse hand of Dick Boulter's lass had grown 
small and delicate, like — like and the shame- 
ful, murdered woman had taken the features of 
Nannie — Nannie, the fair, white, innocent bride whom 
Alick had joyed to see a few minutes before 

Poor Alick ! I told you he had no predisposition 
to sanity. 

A few days later, Vincent Leicester stepped out 
of the Tanswick station on his return from London, 
and as the rush of cold salt air struck him in the face, 
he experienced a keen joy quite new to him in a 
sense of coming home. He sent away the dogcart and 
walked to the Heights across the moor. ' I really 
must turn my attention to the stables,' he said, 
laughing to himself and watching the foolish gait of 
his vanishing horse. ' Could old Price be got rid of, I 
wonder ? To abolish a horse is easy, but what does 
one do with an old coachman ? I will turn him out 
to grass, hoping he is a disciple of the vegetarian 
doctor's, and, like Nebuchadnezzar, will thrive in a 
field.' His heart was thrilling with exhilaration, as 
he looked away over the wild hills on his left, 
where seemed all pleasant possibilities of untamed 
life, and sun, and health, and freedom ; or over the 



THE INSANE ROOT in 

gently tossing sea, from which came murmuring 
music and a wooing breeze. He walked briskly on, 
building castles in the air, and playing with Peggy, 
the rough terrier, who had left the vehicle, like all 
dogs preferring the society of a master to that of a 
groom. 

' Yes, this plateau,' said Vincent, ' is exactly the 
site for a watering-place. The railroad is conveni- 
ent, the air perfect, the cliff just the right height ; 
below, a jolly little beach for bathing. In ten years 
I foresee the growth of an Eastbourne or a Torquay, 
and I shall be a rich man. Perhaps I had better 
import a few Yankees who understand running up 
a city in an hour or two ? Profit is the raison 
d'itre of my town. In default of historical monu- 
ments I will have a pier. Punch and Judy, niggers, 
and 'Arry ; a church too, with a sweet preacher 
to attract rich dowagers. Bryant shall be the 
preacher; Alick Piandle shall be town architect 
and chief decorator. In Mrs. Leach I see mine 
hostess of the best hotel.' At this moment Vincent 
nearly fell over his kinsman the parson, who was 
grovelling under a furze bush. The young man 
begged his pardon, and hoped he had not met with 
an accident. 

' Yes,' said Septimius, ' and a most deplorable 
one, though I can hardly call it an accident, 
when it was designed by those demoniacal boys.' 



112 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

Vincent shook his stick at a pair of barelegged 
urchins disappearing over the precipice. * The 
rudest, the most ill-conditioned, the most worth- 
less ' continued the clergyman ; ' ah, surely I 

caught a gleam of it under that leaf ! Don't crush 
it, I entreat you. Sir Vincent ; your knee is very 
large and heavy. Dear, dear ! you must have con- 
cealed it afresh by your brusque movements. How 
provoking ! ' 

' If I knew what I was looking for,' said Vincent, 
' my zeal in the search would perhaps be more suc- 
cessful.' After further conversation, which proceeded 
with some strain, Vincent finally came away, laugh- 
ing explosively now and then, but looking a little 
disturbed and vexed with himself. 

The slipshod old gentleman who opened the door 
to the young master when he arrived at the Heights, 
was John, brother to Price, the head coachman, 
about to be turned out to grass ; and husband to 
the housekeeper, a person of great dignity. John's 
imagination was less active than his wife's, and he 
could not ' walk with inward glory crowned ' when 
the family mansion had, during Sir Charles's absen- 
teeism, fallen into such a painful state of decay. 

' It's so long since I've buttled for any one, sir,' he 
said this evening, ' I most forget how to do it. As 
you said, sir,' and he shook his long gray locks dole- 
fully, ' you'd best look for a younger man to take my 



THE INSANE ROOT 113 

place. I listened, sir, to you a speaking one day 
in the library to the honourable gentleman, and 
you said, " As for the servants, I must have them 
younger and better looking.'" 

' You listened, did you ? Come now, John, you 
should have known that referred to the women.' 

Vincent, with more laughter, made his way to 
his mother's room. 

Lady Katharine was very tall, very stately, and 
very good. She was rather afraid of her son, and 
had all sorts of confused fears about him, — his health, 
his judgment, his habits, and his principles. It is 
of course needless to add that she idolised her only 
child, and did her very best to influence him rightly. 

' Mother,' said Vincent with much gravity, * would 
you or would you not describe me as a quarrelsome 
person ? ' 

' You ? ' said the gentle lady, thunderstruck. 

' Because I never can take a walk at Everwell 
without a quarrel. It is getting serious. Since 
stepping out of the train two hours ago I have had 
a rupture with two independent people. Now do 
you seriously think the fault is entirely theirs? 
could it by some remote chance be mine ? ' 

' I never quarrel, Vincent,' said her ladyship. 

' Precisely. I am sure John would never have 
suspected you of hankering after beauty and youth 
in a butler.' 

VOL. I o 



114 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

' Has John given notice ? Dear, dear ! What 
would your dear father have said ? ' mourned the 
widow, who, without any admiration for John, re- 
garded him as a sort of decree of Providence. 

'And then a few minutes before. Cousin Sep- 
timius and I had a short conversation, with the 
result that he has resigned too.' 

' Oh, my dearest Yincent ! Surely you must have 
been rash — hasty ! ' 

' It is precisely what I fear. But he was lying 
on his stomach under a bush, seeking a beetle; 
and when I tried to help him he complained of 
the size and the weight of my knees. He seemed 
annoyed ; and moreover the beetle escaped. Then 
he annoyed me by swearing he abhorred every 
mother's son in Everwell. And after a minute he 
said he wished to live in Sark and would hold his 
living no longer. Dear mother, will you send for 
him to-morrow and explain that I didn't mean any- 
thing ; but that I am rather afraid of beetles, and 
think my nerves must have been upset ? Nature, I 
am certain, designed you for a peacemaker 1 ' 

' Pray, Vincent, be serious. Tell me, dear boy, 
did you say anything you now see cause to regret ? ' 

' No. I hinted that he shouldn't prefer beetles 
to boys. But what of that ? The observation may 
have been ill-timed, but I was bound to make it 
some day; these opinions, mother, cannot be hid.' 



THE INSANE ROOT 115 

' Beetles ! ' ejaculated Lady Katharine, and re- 
flected in silence. Vincent roamed about the room, 
straightening the pictures and blowing away the ugly 
housemaid's neglected dust from the window sashes. 

' But what have I here ? ' he asked, taking up 
an architectural design lying on the table ; * plan of 
a villa in Calverley Park, Tunbridge Wells ? Who 
has sent you this, and why ? Good heavens ! under 
what unlucky star did I rise to-day ? Mother, it 
is impossible that you are going to resign too ? 
Mother dear,' said Vincent, sitting down and 
really grave now, ' I should like to say a few things 
to you if I may. Since my father's death I have 
looked into matters a good deal, and I have come 
to a few conclusions which you had better know.' 

' Surely, dear,' said Lady Katharine. Vincent 
looked rather worried, and before plunging into his 
subject made some unkind observations about his 
uncle, asking when he was going away, and announc- 
ing with commendable prudence, but some unneces- 
sary aggressiveness, that he was resolved never under 
any circumstances to lend Uncle Frederick any money. 
The widow blushed ; apologised for her brother, who 
was perhaps a little rapacious ; and hoped anxiously 
that her son was not exhibiting a touch of selfishness. 

' I want all my money myself,' said Vincent 
gloomily ; and now she thought still more anxiously 
that he was in debt, and determined to lay every 



Il6 MR, BRYANTS MISTAKE 

farthing of her own at his disposal. ' My father 
must have told you, mother, that for a long time 
now our property has been too big for our money,' 
continued the son. 

* Your dear father, Vincent, always thanked God 
that he had sufficient for his wants. Of course, 
dear — do let me say it for once — we have to 
regulate our wants. It was beautiful how he did 

that ' her voice failed her. Vincent did not 

reply for a minute. 

* I was not so much thinking of my own wants,' 
he said, bluntly ; ' I was thinking of this place. It 
has been neglected. I have made up my mind, 
mother, to do without, in fact to sell Faverton.' 

' Vincent ! ' 

' I cannot do justice to both places,' said Vincent, 
' and you know I cannot get rid of Everwell. It 
was the home of my forefathers ; whether I like it 
or not, mother, I have made up my mind to make 
it my home. It is not fair to grind a certain 
amount of income out of the place, while I spend 
neither money, nor time, nor interest here.' 

' I am very sorry, dear, you should think it 
necessary to come to any such hasty resolution,' 
said the widow ; ' when I remember your dear 
father's affection for Faverton, and the pleasure he 
took in making little alterations to improve it for 
you ' 



THE INSANE ROOT 117 

' Mother,' interrupted Vincent, ' Faverton is a very 
nice place, but it is a luxury, a speculation. Everwell 
is inevitable. I must recover as much as possible 
of the capital that has been invested at Faverton, 
and that will give me something to spend here ; to 
render this house habitable and the tenants at least 
decent. I can't go on taking rent from those 
men and leave them li\dng like pigs. It is no 
wonder they detest us ; which they do.' Lady 
Katharine sighed. It was as she had feared. Her 
boy was inclined to be presuming. 

' If I can, I mean to make Everw^ell profitable,' 
said Vincent, more cheerfully ; ' that farming land 
shaU be improved somehow. I must run up a shoot- 
ing-box or two, and let those moors every year. 
And I have a great project of building an inn 
on the point, and founding a watering-place ! ' 

* Vincent, what desecration ! ' 

* I am sorry you think so, mother. Can you 
suggest some better way of raising money ? I 
might marry an heiress, of course,' said Vincent, 
laughing, * but heiresses like spending their money 
on themselves, don't they ? not on the dependents 
and barren acres of a pauper husband.' Lady 
Katharine looked up, seeing a gleam of hope. 

* Have you been thinking of marrying, dear 
Vincent ? ' she said eagerly. It was some time 
before he replied. 



ii8 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

Then, still hesitating a little, he exhibited Geor- 
gina's picture; and though he did not disclose her 
name, he gave such other information about the 
charmer as produced a most favourable impression 
on the gentle lady, who considered a Icve match like 
her own the most beautiful and desirable thing in 
the world, and was by this delightful news most 
wonderfully cheered and ready to forgive her son 
about Faverton, Septimius, John Price the butler, 
and everything else. But nowadays, under all his 
moods, Vincent felt, without knowing why, an 
undercurrent of discontent. As he talked of 
Georgina the vague despondency increased. Perhaps 
all men went through it when they first seriously 
contemplated the unknown state of marriage ! per- 
haps every man when he had suddenly entered 
into his inheritance and been pitchforked out of 
boyish irresponsibility into the cares of middle life, 
felt like a voyager putting forth in the dark upon 
an unknown sea, unprovisioned and in a crazy 
boat ! Vincent's heart clung to his gentle and 
affectionate and always reverenced mother ; at least 
there was nothing new and strange about lier. 

' One word more, mother/ said Vincent, rising ; 
and he leaned over her very prettily, quite reminding 
her of his father, and took her hand and smiled at 
her, much, she thought, as he might have done at 
the sweet unknown girl of whom he had spoken ; 



THE INSANE ROOT 119 

' this wedding is not coming off yet, and I don't 
like that plan of a villa in Calverley Park ! Even 
though it is not at Faverton, I feel sure my father 
would like to think that for the present at any rate 
you were making your home with ,me. May we 
not consider that at least as decided ? ' 



CHAPTEE VIII 

Let no one suppose that after one evening's excite- 
ment Alick Eandle had returned to common sense. 
When he presented himself, however, at the Heights 
early on the following day, it was to learn that the 
gentleman had already started for the metropolis, 
not to return till the end of the week. 

' It won't do, you know, Alick,' said John, the 
melancholy ; ' Sir Vincent ain't a republican to be 
hand and glove with you every hour of the day. 
You'd best not be intertrooding so often.' 

' What ! ' cried Alick, with the self-importance 
of simplicity, * has he gone away to avoid me .? ' 

' Her ladyship's at home,' said John, who had 
great respect for Alick, ' and the honourable gentle- 
man, if you want to leave a message.' 

* The honourable gentleman ! ' repeated Alick ; 
' I wonder if them titles is pleasing to Him who 



120 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

said, " Call no man your master upon earth." T 
cannot bring my mouth about them till I know the 
men better. Is your master an honourable gentle- 
man, John, do you think ? ' 

' It's haraldry/ said John ; ' step in and ask my 
Betsy. Shey's oop to it. It's a puzzle to me, a puzzle 
to me.' 

Alick went away to begin his work breakfastless, 
and wet to the skin by the thick drizzle. He would 
speak plain to Nannie herself, and tell her that he 
loved her, and in honourable fashioli. But Nannie 
baffled him by her little air of displeasure, her child- 
like innocence, and maiden pride. He could not 
get his dark suspicions of the man he distrusted 
into words, which instinct told him would be 
surely offensive to her ; and instinct told him also 
that to press his own suit now was to meet with 
certain rejection, perhaps to lose her altogether. 
For at any moment Nannie might return to her own 
home in the next county ; and of all things Alick 
dreaded that, for Sir Vincent could go to Faverton 
and he himself could not. So he kept silence, but 
all the time fire was smouldering in his breast, such 
as could not choose but burst into flame some day 
at unawares. 

One evening Alick, ostensibly doing a bit of 
designing for the doctor's great book, had let his 
fingers stray into altogether amateur work, prompted 



THE INSANE ROOT I2i 

by the Father of Idleness. He was trying to draw 
a picture of Nannie ; it would not come right ; and 
the girl was out shopping for her aunt. He would 
help himself by that old forgotten sketch of her 
in the case. He rose to fetch it. It was gone ! 
Alick turned the drawinojs over and over as^ain, and 
his pale face grew paler. This was the thing that 
had been kept from him ! The man had asked 
Nannie for her portrait ; and she had given it to 
him. It was clear as daylight. 

One of the children knocked something down. 
Lizzie struck him, and the child howled. 'Now, 
now, now ! ' cried Alick, who in his best moods had 
his teeth set on edge by a child's cry. 'Where's 
mother ? ' 

' Gone to the beer-house,' answered little Mary 
Anne, when the bigger girls were going to temporise. 
Alick flung out after her with a mad desire tearing 
at his heart to join her for once in her cups, nay, to 
far exceed her decorous tippling in mad excess of 
riot. It was long before he dared to seek her in 
the unhallowed precincts. Was it relief or disap- 
pointment that she was not there ? 



122 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

CHAPTEE IX 

TWO LETTERS AND A SOLILOQUY 

' We should certainly be most culpable, my dear Sir 
Vincent, if for want of patronage we allowed such 
unusual gifts as you have introduced to my notice 
to be neglected. If you have made up your mind 
to spend a little money on this Alexander Eandle 
(and I, for one, can conceive no worthier expenditure 
of money), I shall be happy if you will allow me to 
double your liberality ; and I will make inquiries as 
to the young artist's most advantageous course. 
London art instruction is poor ; modern Italian is 
despicable ; undoubtedly, Paris is the best field. If 
you have any fear that the moral influences of the 
place may be dangerous for a young man in Alex- 
ander Eandle's position, I will make further inquiries 
into the conditions to which an art student is sub- 
jected in one of the admirable German studios. — 
Believe me, with genuine gratitude,' etc. etc. etc. 

' Well, I suppose that is satisfactory ; only going 
rather too fast for my intentions. It is decided 
then that Alick has genius ? But fancy Cookham 
and me going shares in any undertaking ! Had I 
not better unlade our student on him altogether ? 



THE INSANE ROOT 123 

Ah, here are the sketches. Now I can take them 
back to lovely Nannie and give her her book. 

' How have I overlooked a letter from Georgina, 
I wonder ? It is rather soon for her to write again, 
isn't it ? Oh, I see. Also about Alick. What an 
important fellow he has become all of a sudden ! ' 

'My dear cousin, put not your faith in man. 
If you wanted a true verdict from our artistic 
friend, you shouldn't have sent the silly sketches 
through me. Don't you know his lordship likes 
pleasing me 1 And seriously I must warn you off 
this country paint-brush. Are you thinking he'll 
be a Michael Angelo ? It is a dream, sir. Your 
villager won't be a genius. He will probably steal 
your money and take to drink, and you will never 
hear his name without a shudder. Don't you know 
that I am right ? For is he not your first protege ? 
And did any man's first protege ever turn out well ? 
or his second ? or his third ? I assure you Cookham 
has had scores of proteges, and as far as I can make 
out they all drink. Please, sir, you won't turn 
philanthropist, will you ? Aunt says the species is 
vulgar and papa generally finds them dissenters. 
You surely do not believe in people ? How I 
should laugh if any one believed in me, and yet I 
am a finer specimen than any protege I ever met. 
AYhat have persons with a liberal education and an 
open mind to do with enthusiasms ? Have they not 



124 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

all been found out long ago ? Do pray come away 
from that horrible Everwell/ etc. etc. etc., ending 
with a hope they might soon meet again ; she had 
a host of new friends to whom she wanted to intro- 
duce him. 

' That is all very nice/ said the soliloquy. ' I 
suppose she means she will have me now if I like 
to ask her again. If our letters are to be in this 
vein I think I should prefer a formal and announced 
engagement, that these other fellows she talks of 
may stand out of the light. The only thing is, some- 
how, I don't feel as keen about it as I did. 

' Oh heaven ! were mau 
But constant, he were perfect ; that one error 
Fills him with faults ; makes him run through all the sins. 



Inconstancy falls off ere it begins. 



Well, any way I have not changed my mind. No. 
Have I not told mother all about it ? That shows 
I have not changed my mind. It will be all right 
once I see Georgina again. She is handsomer even 
than Nannie, isn't she ? I think I will go to Eome 
presently and settle it. And after dinner to-day 
I will carry Alick his sketches and see what Cook- 
ham and I can arrange for him. And take another 
peep at Nannie. Why the deuce shouldn't I ? ' 



THE INSANE ROOT 125 



CHAPTEE X 



' Oh law, sir ! ' said Mrs. Leach, ' my poor lad said 
mey and Nannie wasn't to let you come no more.' 
She couldn't for the life of her remember what 
reason Alick had given, so when Sir Vincent 
asked, ' Why not ? ' she was driven to her usual 
resort of ready invention. 'Well, now, sir, there 
ain't no use trying to deceive you. To make a 
short story, my poor boy ain't right in his head 
to-night.' 

' Bless me ! ' said Vincent. 

' He don't read his tracks ; he don't work at 
nothing. He don't say nothing. And we durstn't 
say nothing to him. He kicks the children. He 
flies out at his good mother and at Nannie. If you 
was to come in, sir, he might propose to chuck you 
of a heap on the fire.' 

' Is he a teetotaler ? ' asked Vincent, with delicate 
insinuation. 

'No, sir; we don't hold with teetotalers. My 
husbands never had the doctor out of the house 
after they signed the pledge. They was men wonder- 
ful like each other, sir ; both named Jim ; both 
delicate like ; and both took early, one after the 



126 MR. BR YANTS MISTAKE 

tother. But we are very sober, pious people, sir. 
As I hope to go to heaven, I'm telling you the truth 
about Alick ; he's an honourable young man, and a 
sober, and a genelmanly ; but he has a shocking 
bad head. And that's a calamity for poor folks 
like we, sir; and an expense, so as sometimes, 
like to-night, I don't know where to turn for 
a sixpence. But I'm ashamed, sir, you should 
have found me weeping on the road about it. 
I'm a very feeling woman, and I weep easy may- 
bey.' 

' Your eldest daughter must be an assistance to 
you,' said Vincent, moving on. 

Here Mrs. Leach looked ruefully into a capacious 
but empty purse. ' I take it very kind of you, sir, 
to have noticed my eldest daughter. She lays abed 
at home with the headache, and I was stepping up 
to Dr. Verrill's to get a herb liniment for her. 
" Mother," she says to me, " bring me some lemons 
and the wing of a chicken ! " The only thing she 
could fancy, pretty dear, and she so patient. But I 
ain't got the money not to buy luxuries, not even 
for her.' 

It was weak-minded, but Vincent was so 
moved by the thought of the little red-haired 
beauty sighing at home with the headache for 
a bag of lemons, that he gave Mrs. Leach five 
shillings, and bade her call at the Heights for 



THE INSANE ROOT 127 

some grapes. He now proposed to continue 
his walk, and Mrs. Leach, delighted by the dona- 
tive, hurried away, after thanks rather fulsome 
than lengthy. 

At the first corner, however, Vincent was sur- 
prised to meet the imagined eldest daughter herself, 
her finger on her lip, looking from the retreating 
Mrs. Leach to the advancing gentleman with an air 
of reproachful distress. 

* Oh, Nannie ! ' he exclaimed, impulsively utter- 
ing her name; then was abashed, thinking he had 
been too familiar. 

' Oh, what dicl you give her ? ' cried the girl. 
' I saw you give her something ! Was she asking 
for money ? Oh, how could you do it ! Think how 
vexed Alick will be ! ' 

* I am very sorry,' said Vincent, smiling at her 
sweet indignant face ; ' she told me your sister or 
somebody was ill ' 

' Oh, stop,' cried Nannie, smiles beginning to 
invade her distress also. ' You mustn't always 
believe just what she says. We nom of us 
do, you know.' And she blushed, and then they 
both began to laugh, a thing that always draws 
young people together even when they don't know 
what they are laughing at. 

' I must go after her,' said Nannie, presently. 

' Wait a bit/ answered Sir Vincent. ' I have 



128 

heard from my friend about Alick's sketches ; don't 
you want to learn what he says, Nannie ? ' The 
name slipped out quite naturally this time, and 
Nannie seeming as little astonished as if she were 
a new housemaid, he resolved to stick to it.- Vin- 
cent sat down on the low wall edging the precipice 
below Dr. Verrill's house and took out Lord Cook- 
ham's letter. ' You can read it yourself,' he said, 
and held it so that to see it in the bright inoon- 
light, she had to bend towards him a little. The 
reading took some time, for the style both of 
writing and expression was unfamiliar to the simple 
girl, but Vincent saw no occasion to hurry her. 
How could any one with red hair possibly be so 
pretty as Nannie ? How pure was the outline of her 
rounded cheek and delicate lips ! And what a pretty 
sparkle came to her soft eyes as she realised the 
writer's drift, whispering to herself the strange words 
and complicated sentences, and pointing with one 
slender, though brown finger to the lines. A more 
innocent maid than this little Nannie, as she stood 
beside the gentleman on the edge of the precipice, 
full of enthusiasms for her dear Alick, could not be 
imagined. She would not indeed have leaned over 
a rude fisherman, or even over the postman, in that 
way ; but the remotest fear of Sir Vincent Leicester 
had never crossed her mind. Gentlemen were not 
rough and familiar, nor inclined to make coarse 



THE INSANE ROOT 129 

jokes on the smallest provocation. And, moreover, 
she was so taken up about dear, appreciated Alick ! 
The moment was delicious, and neither the man 
nor the maid cared to shorten it ; in fact Nannie 
entirely forgot to pursue her aunt Mrs. Leach^ 
who had two unexpected half-crowns in her 
pocket. 

But at the back of Dr. Verrill's house were two 
gaunt,- unshuttered windows, which looked straight 
down on the lonely path and the low protecting 
wall, bright enough in the moonbeams. And in the 
house were assembled several persons in a sort of club 
meeting : the postman, the schoolmaster, and some 
of the Tanswick shopkeepers, a coastguardsman, one 
or two young farmers, and others of similar calibre. 
The only lady was Miss Verrill, who had been out 
ratting, and was now washing a dog in a corner of 
the assembly room, and not attending much to the 
proceedings which she graced with her presence. 
Dr. Verrill in his shirt-sleeves sat at a table in the 
middle of the room with his MS. work on vege- 
tables and Alick Handle's plates open before him ; a 
microscope ; and sundry botanical specimens all in 
various stages of decay, including a heap of sea- 
weed, still oozy with brine and full of minute shell- 
fish. The men in the room had their pipes, and 
were all supplied with steaming glasses of grog; 
the smell from the oil lamp, the specimens, the 

VOL. I 9 



I30 MR. BR YAJVT's MISTAKE 

spirits, the dogs, and the hot soap was enough to 
knock one down. 

This meeting was a weekly one, assembled by 
Dr. Verrill, who was by way of lecturing on 
his hobby after a vegetarian supper, not always 
unpalatable to men tired of a fish diet, and glad 
of the warm room and respectable company, 
safe from the intrusion of 'fishing loons' and 
noisy brawls. Dr. Verrill made no stipulations 
against conversation ; so long as he was allowed 
to lecture he did not care if nobody listened ; 
and indeed those who did listen were not un- 
amused, for the good little man never stuck close 
enough to his subject to be tedious. ' Our 
friend Alick,' said the doctor, nodding at the 
young man, who was wandering round the room, 
looking bored, ' tells me that in the Heavenly City 
is a tree whose leaves are for the healing of the 
nations. Now observe the word learns. We are 
inclined to eat fruits, roots, stalks, such like, but 
except in the case of lettuce, we do not by instinct 
incline to Uams. Now, Alick, my lad, you have 
studied these words. Do you consider from that 
passage that leaves are on the whole intended 
to be medicine ? 

'When I read that verse last, sir,' said Alick 
modestly, 'my thoughts were lifted up a bit 
higher than earthly medicines, — commonly ill- 



THE INSANE ROOT 131 

tasting, and not, I should hope, likely to get into 
the Xew Jerusalem.' 

' Exactly/ cried the doctor ; ' healing in that 
context obviously means food. The leaves of that 
tree are for the food of the nations. This even- 
ing I propose to talk to you about leaves. Here 
are some gathered from that great treasure-house, 
the sea : are you aware that its bed is a forest 
of waving leaves, of which nine-tenths are not only 
edible, but delicious; as those which my sister 
cooked for you this evening ? Andrew Martin, 
last week we discussed and I think established 
the point, that you as an agriculturist though an 
unsuccessful one, are engaged in a holier pursuit 
in the eyes of Dame Nature than your brother the 
fish auctioneer. Mind, I don't say a word against 
the consumption of corn. But its cultivation is a 
well-established industry suited to a new country.' 

'Brother,' interrupted Miss Verrill, severely 
' your topic is Leaves' 

Meanwhile James Ogle was discussing the new 
landlord and the hewing of timber with the postman. 
' I reckon Leicester 'ud cut them oaks quick enough 
gin they spoiled his cabbage. But seeing it's only 
mine it don't matter,' said the grumbler. 

"Taint him,' rejoined the other; ' hey seems a good- 
tempered chap. It's Blake. It's them stewards 
and managers ate the grass off the ground and the 



132 MR. BRYAN fs MISTAKE 

flesh off men's bones. It's them makes the landlords 
the grasping, do-nothing dolts they bey. It's a heavy 
sin in Blake, ain't it, Alick ? let alone to grind up 
the poor, but to fester the rich. It's like to breed 
curses in the long run ; but them sort of curses 
is contrairy things, and liker to light on my head, 
or yourn, or maybey Sir Vincent's hisself, than on 
Blake's.' 

Alick did not take up the challenge thrown to 
him. He was bothered by a remark Miss Yerrill 
had made as she carried away the soap-suds and 
two of the dogs. 

' There's a bright moon over the sea. I looked 
out of the stair window, and I saw your mother, 
Alick, and Sir Vincent talking to her. He gave 
her some money I think, or my eyes have got 
cataract.' 

' What should mother take money of Sir Vincent 
for ? ' thought Alick, resenting Miss Verrill's inter- 
ference and too proud at once to pursue the mother 
to seek whom he had come out. And he wanted 
an interview with Sir Vincent himself But Alick, 
the unpledged Nazarite, had tasted Miss Verrill's 
punch to-night, and was conscious that his temper 
was not under command. He would not seek Sir 
Vincent till the morning. 

Still he turned his back on the assembly and 
looked also from the staircase window. He pulled 



THE INSANE ROOT 133 

aside the curtain and gazed out on the night. The 
moon made a pleasant reflection across the sea ; the 
starry sky was cloudless and blue. There was frost 
in the air, and with it the tingling silentness which 
makes the senses keen and strengthens the pulse of 
life.- But of near objects, it was easy to see only 
those directly in the moonbeams. Alick could not 
discern his portly mother nor the tall, firm-striding 
young gentleman. There was no one about, he 
thought. Only presently he discovered to the right, 
scarcely visible, a couple of figures down below by 
the parapet wall : a man sitting on it, half-hidden 
by the woman to whom he was showing something. 
Alick watched them, vaguely hearing from the room 
he had left snatches of talk, which had suddenly 
blazed up from cabbages and seaweed into violence, 
assertion of rights, freedom and force, blows and 
revenge. He was not listening, though he heard ; 
he was thinking of the pair below ; lovers he sup- 
posed — doubtless unlawful ones. Everwell lovers 
were generally unlawful. 

Surely they must be kissing each other down 
there in their fancied loneliness, while he was 
glaring at them with eyes full of senseless jealousy. 
Ah! they moved a little. The light fell on them 
better now. If they turned ever so little more 
he would be able to see their faces, perhaps dis- 
tinctly enough for recognition, should he meet 



134 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

them to-morrow on the shore or in the village 
street 

' You will like to tell Alick yourself, won't you, 
Nannie ? ' said Yincent a few moments later ; ' here, 
take the letter, and the pictures, and your story- 
hook, you wise little student. Can you carry all 
that, or shall I walk round with you ? ' 

' Oh, I can carry it, I think' said Nannie, wish- 
ing he would come ; ' and thank you so much, sir, 
for the book and for all ' 

'But, Nannie, I have discovered something. 
This is a portrait of you. Am I not right ? ' asked 
Yincent, drawing his finger over the pencil lines. 
She blushed. 

' Yes, sir. You see I am so handy for Alick ! 
Sally and Liz don't care about sitting quiet so long.' 

' I expect they wouldn't make such good pictures. 
But Alick has caricatured you. I see now why you 
didn't tell me it was your portrait. It was vanity, 
wasn't it ? ' 

Just what he might have said to a London young 
lady in a drawing-room with her brother listening. 
But somehow, when Yincent perceived Alick stand- 
ing beside them, his first instinctive feeling was a 
hope that the brother had not overheard. He rose. 
' Oh, here is the man himself,' he said, as easily 
as he could. ' Good evening, Alick. I have been 
giving your sister a message for you.' — 



THE INSANE ROOT 135 

For the pair had turned a little, and the moon 
had shone on their happy faces, and Alick had 
recognised them. The effect was instantaneous. It 
seemed to him a mere blinding, sense -bereaving 
horror and hatred, but it brought him like an arrow 
from a string down the stair, across the path to their 
side. He snatched the picture from Vincent's hand, 
glanced at it, tore it in pieces, and stamped on it. 
Then pushing the girl aside with an oath, he thrust 
himself between the pair, who in sheer amazement 
had drawn closer together, Vincent with a sudden 
recollection of Mrs. Leach's suggestions about her 
poor son's poor head, and the recoil of disgust which 
all sane people feel at a madman. It will be 
imagined that the young man who had made short 
work of the drunken boatman was quick to use his 
strength in innocent Nannie's behalf! 



CHAPTEK XI 

They came to no explanation, for Alick had put 
himself so entirely in the wrong that no opportunity 
of speech was allowed him. Vincent sent Nannie 
home in charge of the postman and Andrew Martin ; 
and then strode off, so angry that a cynic might 
have suspected him of being a little conscience- 



136 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

stricken. ' The fool was drunk of course/ he said ; 
'just the way with your canting hypocrites. Well, 
for Nannie's sake if for no one else's, he must be 
got out of Everwell. How the child must hate him ! ' 

All the next day Vincent rode the high horse, 
astonishing Blake, his present schoolmaster, by his 
progress, his strong views, and general air of virtue. 
He mended the quarrel with John, and sent him 
away on a week's holiday ; visited Septimius, and 
agreed that Sark was more suitable to him than 
Everwell; went about inspecting the unlet farms 
and inquiring into the cause of their decline. 

' I shall farm that land myself,' said Vincent, 
pointing to the pretty tree-shaded farmhouse at the 
end of the dale which ran back from the post-office, 
and to its desolate fields beyond. 

' You, Sir Vincent ? ' Blake was not so con- 
temptuous of the new baronet as he had been for 
the first few weeks, but he could not altogether 
'stomach him,' as he phrased it. 

' I mean I shall find the capital. I intend to 
study farming ; and among the needy enthusiasts 
you talk of I shall look out a servant, not a tenant.' 

' There's that man Eandle down by Faverton,' 
suggested Blake presently, ' he might undertake it if 
you made it worth his while. Father or son either 
would do ; but the son has married himself there 
into one of the downright good yeoman families, and 



THE INSANE ROOT 137 

has too many irons in the fire for his wife to let 
him away in a hurry. He's perhaps a bit too theoreti- 
cal too. Now the father sits looser to Faverton, and 
is getting old for so many acres as he has there.' 

' He is probably the man I want,' said Vincent. 
' We might write and sound him about it. I re- 
member to have heard my father speak of him as 
sensible and hard-working.' 

It did not occur to the young man that Mr. 
Handle, the Faverton farmer, had anything to do 
with Nannie, but his thoughts were running more 
than ever upon the girl ; and he intended to go 
and see her the very first thing in the morning. 
Was this odious day never coming to an end ? 
What did he care about farms and farmers ? The 
first thing to-morrow morning he would see lovely 
Nannie again ! 

But to-night, when it was getting late, Lucy, a 
raw Faverton girl, sent accidentally in John's ab- 
sence to open the hall door, came with an announce- 
ment. ' If you please, sir, there's a young woman 
on the door-step who wants to speak to you ; and 
I think she's a beggar,' continued Lucy, ' for she has 
very red hair and she begun to cry, and I couldn't 
make out what name she said.' 

Vincent had divined instantaneously who it was, 
and was gone, without awaiting these explanations 
and surmises. 



138 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

Yes, it was Nannie, standing outside the very 
forbidding -looking ancient hall -door, and by the 
time Vincent had got to her, and had, touching her 
slender wrist to do so, led her into the great hall 
with its panelling, its coloured windows, oak chests, 
suits of armour, and open fireplace, she had 
swallowed her tears and was resolved to be brave 
and womanly. 

' Oh, please, sir,' cried Nannie, clasping her hands, 
' forgive me for disturbing you, but Alick is so 
dreadfully bad ! He has been queer all day, and 
doesn't hear half we say to him. And he keeps 
asking for you, sir ; and I got so puzzled — I thought 
maybe you'd come and see him, and say what I 
ought to do.' 

' To be sure I will, Nannie,' said Vincent, all his 
resentment against Alick vanishing at sight of her 
distress ; ' but I'm a poor doctor. You had better 
consult Lady Katharine.' Nannie shook her head. 

' Sir, it isn't doctoring he wants of you. Please, 
I'd sooner you came alone.' 

She was thinking unutterable things about her 
poor Alick and Sir Vincent, but not one of them 
could she say ; could, indeed, only look up at the 
gentleman piteously, with tear -filled eyes. And 
Vincent looked at her in return, — a long silent look, 
very much longer than either of them knew. 

' I will go with you, Nannie,' said Vincent 



THE INSANE ROOT 139 

at last; and a pink spot burned on her cheek. 
The idea of the long lonely walk with him gave 
Nannie an agitated feeling that did not seem 
exactly shyness, and which was so new she could 
not be sure if it were pleasure or discomfort. 

But as they hurried through the moonless night 
they scarcely spoke. The girl knew the path best, 
and her steady little feet never slipped nor faltered. 
Only once, when a wave louder than usual struck 
the rock below with a thunder roar, and at the 
same moment the black form of some wild animal 
started from her feet with a scream, Nannie sprang 
back with a shudder and a little cry, and Vincent 
laid his hand reassuringly on her shoulder. ' Don't 
be frightened,' he said, softly, and as they moved on 
the hand was not taken away. Nannie liked it a 
great deal too much to object. As they neared 
their destination Nannie suddenly stopped and 
looked at him, flushing nervously. 

' Please, sir — you were just going to be so good 
to Alick — will you ever be able to forget what he 
— what Alick did yesterday ? ' she faltered. 

' I should like to understand that matter a little 
before forgetting it,' he said. Nannie walked on 
and he followed, wishing he had let Alick and his 
pictures alone. 

'Neither do I understand it,' said the girl 
piteously ; ' Alick was angry with me too, but I 



140 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

don't know why. And he is very miserable ; and 
I have forgiven him.' 

' I can't forgive him for vexing youl said Vincent, 
' but if you wish it, I will think no more of his in- 
solence to me! Had Nannie been in the least re- 
sponsive he might have persevered in that soft 
suggestive tone. As it was, the rest of the journey 
was made in silence. 

' Sir,' said Alick, after a long, drowsy pause, in 
which Vincent had waited uncomfortably and im- 
patiently, vexed with Nannie who had left him, 
not interested in Alick, and having come merely to 
please the girl and to be with her ; thinking of her 
incessantly, fingering a book she had been reading 
with her name in it, and half-proposing to write 
her a little note and leave it within the pages for 
her finding in some silent hour of her night-watch 
with the sufferer : — ' Sir, I have been trying all the 
evening to think what it was I was wanting to say 
to you, but it was gone from me like Nebuchad- 
nezzar's dream. I know now, and you must listen.' 

' Say on,' said Vincent, wishing him at Jericho, 
and thrusting Nannie's little blue -covered, old- 
fashioned volume into his breast-pocket. Alick 
saw the action. 

' Come here, sir. We'll have no talk of my 
leaving Everwell, Sir Vincent ; yovHl not find it so 
easy to get me aioay from my girl! 



THE INSANE ROOT 141 

' Your sister ? ' said the visitor, easily, but feeling 
himself flushing ; what right had this man to dis- 
cern that unheeded suggestion of his worst self ? 

' She ain't my sister ! ' shouted Alick, with 
sudden vehemence, all his various emotions bursting 
forth at the sound of the cool, careless tone ; ' maybe 
if she had been my sister I'd have minded, but it 
wouldn't have crazed me like it did. Nannie ain't 
my sister. She's my sweetheart.' 

Vincent had a sensation as if the walls of the 
little room were crushing in upon him and suffo- 
cating him. But he answered coldly, almost dis- 
dainfully, ' Indeed ? I was not aware. You are 
to be congratulated. Suppose you took your sweet- 
heart with you ? ' This coolness was disconcerting 
to Alick, who wanted to quarrel. 

' I will never accept no favours from a man I 
am not friends with ! ' he cried, ' and who thinks, I 
suppose, with his favours to buy ' 

' Come now, Alick, this is absurd. You were 
excited yesterday and under some misapprehension. 
I am not going to stand in your light because of 
rubbish like that.' 

' Ay, it was aU my fault, you think ? and you 
are kind enough to forgive me ? How often have 
you seen my Nannie, sir ? ' 

' Oh, is that what you are at ? I don't know, 
and I don't care if I never see her again. Your 



142 MR. BR YANT'S MISTAKE 

question is ridiculous.' And Vincent resolved to 
call some one and leave the house. His ears were 
tingling, for he was not in the habit of lying. The 
other looked hard at him, reading him through with 
a much keener perception than Vincent had for him- 
self; and Alick discerned the lie; discerned also 
that the gentleman had disliked being driven to it. 

* Look here, sir,' he said, more temperately, ' will 
you pledge me your word, on your honour, which 
I'm thinking is as good as an oath to you, that 
there shan't never be no love-making between you 
and Nannie ? ' 

' No, I will not,' said the gentleman ; ' I never 
make pledges about my conduct. Nor will I permit 
one single word further on this subject.' 

Alick was baffled. He had no theoretical ob- 
jections to being even insolent ; but there was 
that in Vincent's tone which silenced him now. 
Nor had he yet recovered his power of utterance 
when the other, after waiting further observations 
for a reasonable time, left him altogether ; pass- 
ing Nannie in the doorway, who had returned 
for her night watch. Frightened by the atmosphere 
of storm, Nannie followed Sir Vincent's retreat with 
sweet, imploring eyes, the beauty of which he felt 
now for the first time thoroughly to realise. But 
he went out, giving her neither word nor farewell 
look ; and Alick lay back gasping, exhausted, and 



THE INSANE ROOT 143 

defeated, after flinging one loud curse at the 
retiring victor. 

' Oh, dear lad, what is the matter ? ' said the 
girl's delicious voice, still in Vincent's hearing. 
But he had escaped, hurrying away into the 
solitude of the night ; the sweet tones still ringing 
in his ears, the beauty of the sweet eyes still 
haunting his soul. 

Vincent lingered long on the darkened and 
silent moor, which he had so lately traversed with 
his hand resting lovingly upon Nannie's warm 
young shoulder. Now he was alone ; and he sat 
down and let his brow sink dejectedly on his hand. 
He knew exactly where he was now ; carelessness 
and self-deception were no longer possible. He was 
an abject fool. He had fallen in love with this 
child, Nannie Eandle; — with Nannie Eandle, who, 
by all the unwritten laws of justice and honour, was 
out of his reach. Even Alick's blundering inter- 
ference could not blind him to this fact. 

It was a test that was proposed to liim. So far 
Vincent had drifted through his life on the whole 
in a straight course, but following the impulse and 
desire of the moment. Now he was suddenly 
summoned to make a stand, and by his action in 
this matter, to declare not for others only, but for 
himself, what manner of man he intended to be. 

There was one person of whom at this moment 



144 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

he had not the very faintest recollection ; the woman 
he intended to marry — Georgina Bryant. 



CHAPTEE XII 

A FEW days afterwards Lady Katharine sought her 
son, who was sitting gloomily biting his nails, the 
instructive books open before him and his attention 
fixed elsewhere. 

' Vincent, dear, may I give you my opinion ? I 
am most unwilling to say such a thing, but I have 
been visiting some of the cottages a good deal this 
week, and I cannot help thinking Mr. Leicester lias 
neglected the parish a little. And, dear, if he 
wishes to make a change, it is perhaps a pity to 
persuade him to reconsider his decision.' 

' Well ? I know all that,' said the son, crossly, 
and then begged his mother's pardon ; who had 
looked surprised at his tone, but at once, on his 
apology, smiled forgiveness. 

' And your cousin Augustine will, I am sure, be 
delighted to give up his curacy.' 

' Oh, confound it ! I am not thinking of him' 
Lady Katharine looked greatly surprised again. Sir 
Charles had never spoken to her so. 

' I beg your pardon, mother,' repeated Vincent. 



THE INSANE ROOT 145 

' Yes, it is all settled about Septimius. He means 
to study beetles in Sark. As to Augustine — do 
you know that chap, mother ? ' 

' Kot at all now,' said Lady Katharine comfortably. 

* Is he — efficient ? ' 

' Efficient ? ' Into Lady Katharine's benevolent 
head the idea of a young clergyman being inefficient 
had never entered. ' I haven't met him since he 
was a lad. You remember the Easter holidays he 
spent with you, Vincent, and what a nice ' 

' I remember thinking him a prig.' 

'I suppose, Vincent, you will respect your dear 
father's intentions ?' 

Vincent frowned and was silent for some moments. 
* I cannot think,' he said, slowly, * that my father 
would have given an important charge to a man he 
knew nothing about. Anyway — I won't.' 

' Shall we invite him now ? ' asked the widow, 
surprised again. 

' No, I couldn't judge of a man to order. But I 
know nothing suitable about him. He is scarcely 
older than I am myself, and he has bad health and 
a priggish disposition. Why should I pitch upon 
him ? ' 

' Because he's your cousin, Vincent ! ' cried Lady 
Katharine, astonished at his ignorance of simple 
arrangements. 

' But I don't like that sort of nepotism. I mean 

VOL. I 10 



146 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

to have a man who to my knowledge understands 
his business. That is of more importance than his 
relationship to me.' 

' But, indeed, Vincent, you are hasty. You 
should not decide against Augustine in this way. 
Have you perhaps some friend you want to bring 
here ? ' 

' Favouritism, you think, mrsus nepotism ? 
Well, I don't know much about parsons, nor do I 
hold with them altogether myself. Still, I am 
fortunate in an acquaintance with one. / ham 
already offered the living to Mr. Bryant! 

Lady Katharine had one merit, she always gave 
in when she saw that her mankind was resolved. 
And her son's friendship with the 'nice clergy- 
man' had always pleased her. So she only re- 
peated — 

' I think, dear, you have been hasty about 
Augustine ; still, I am sure from your description 
Mr. Bryant would be admirably adapted to the 
needs of the place, and I hope, if you decide 
upon it, you will be able to induce him to 
come.' 

' That's settled then,' said Vincent, who still 
looked gloomy. Presently he said, ' I have already 
heard of a probable tenant and possible purchaser 
for Faverton ; I think I must go there at once and 
invite him to stay for a day oi two and look about 



THE INSANE ROOT 147 

the place well. Will you come with me ? And 
whether I come to terms with him or not — he 
doesn't want possession immediately — I propose 
that you and I should remain there for the rest of 
the winter.' Lady Katharine was quite bewildered 
now, especially by her son's expression of profound 
wretchedness. 

' But not on my account, dear ? I thought 
you were so anxious to stay here for the pre- 
sent.' 

' I have changed my mind.' She was still looking 
at him in dismay ; certainly he was very hasty. 
'Perhaps, Vincent,' ventured the widow cautiously, 
' you will change your mind about selling 
Faverton.' 

' No. But I have a reason, a perfectly good one, 
though I don't care to explain it, for not wishing to 
be here for the next three or four months. Faverton 
is still on our hands ; let us go there. Or if you 
would rather go abroad, say so. I will take you to 
Eome if you wish it,' said Vincent, in a low 
voice. 

Lady Katharine at once understood everything. 
She had gathered from her son that the lady, the 
eminently suitable lady whom he loved, was in 
Eome this winter. His gloom, his irritation, his 
change of purpose was obviously connected with her. 
Poor dear boy ! And she had been feeling surprised 



148 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

and even displeased at him, when perhaps he was 
suffering acutely. 

'Dearest Vincent/ she said, putting her arm 
round his neck tenderly, ' I will do whatever you 
like. Perhaps, dear,' she said, sympathetically, 
' by yourself, you would be better able ' 

Vincent laughed. ' We are at cross purposes, 
mother. Come, if you will do exactly what I like, 
then we will go together to Faverton, and stay there 
for the present. I may wish to go to Eome later, 
but I am not in a hurry.' 

Evidently something was wrong with Sir Vincent. 
He stood long at the library window when he was 
left alone this morning, looking out wistfully as if 
half expecting to see Nannie's graceful figure coming 
over the cliff again with a message for him. But 
there was no sign of her, and at last he turned 
away with an impatient sigh. He took down some 
books from his shelves which he fancied she would 
like, and wrote her name in them ; then made them 
and her little blue volume (carried away in his pocket) 
into a parcel, with a slip of paper inside it on which 
he wrote, Tor your sweetheart, with my compliments. 
I hope I shall find her your wife upon my return 
in the spring.' 

The parcel was sent by Dr. Verrill, who reported 
to Sir Vincent on Alick's condition. ' The fellow 
gets a brain fever now and then,' said the experi- 



THE INSANE ROOT 149 

mentalist, contentedly ; ' it does him good. It's like 
the woman's anguish remembered no more when 
she has her man-child. His temper was diabolical 
till he sickened the first time ; after his second 
attack he became a Christian and a vegetarian. 
But what's the matter with yourself, young sir ? 
You look as if a brain fever or something would 
be a relief to your system.' Vincent laughed, and 
trusted the little doctor with his parcel. 

' But you will be sure/ he said, ' to put it into 
the hands of the man himself when he has recovered. 
Don't give it to the girl, or to any one else.' 

As Sir Vincent and his mother drove to Tans- 
wick Station on their way to Faverton a day or 
two later, they passed Nannie Eandle standing 
in the road watching for the carriage. Vincent 
resolutely looked at the horses' ears, and Nannie 
got not so much as a glance — still less the smile 
she had been expecting. So disappointed was she 
that tears filled her eyes as she stood there alone on 
the moor. Alick had tossed her the books crossly 
enough, but had said not one word about Sir 
Vincent ; he had recovered from his illness and 
partly from his suspicions. At any rate Nannie 
was innocent, and if Sir Vincent was going away, 
well — perhaps it was all right. He would say 
nothing to frighten her now at any rate. Nannie 
carried her books aside, and for a long time sat 



ISO MR. Bryant's MISTAKE 

gazing at her name in his beautiful writing. There 
was no way she could thank him ; Alick had refused 
to let her send a message or to take it herself. 
But she watched for the carriage : smiles at least 
were free, and Sir Vincent would understand. 
Why, oh why, would he not look round ? 



PAET III 
ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 



CHAPTEE I 

Mr. Bkyant was vicar of the London parish where 
his second marriage had found Mm curate. That 
much promotion had come to him early. He was a 
man of some standing and popularity, who wrote 
for rehgious magazines and was always in request 
to occupy vacant pulpits. His church was well 
filled, and his parish, an uninteresting one, was 
always mentioned as well and successfully worked. 
Mr. Bryant was on the whole well satisfied with 
his position, and devoted to good works. For 
the son of a small country grocer, he had got on 
very well; indeed by this time the grocery con- 
nection was entirely forgotten : the clergyman had 
acquired the manners of society, and it never 
occurred to any one to ask who he was, or where he 
had come from. As to Mrs. Bryant, well, she was 
a very quiet woman; stay-at-home, because her 
thoughts were much in the past, and she was ill at 
ease in what she called ' company.' She was child- 
less, and consequently apt to be sorrowful ; and she 



154 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

had lost her beauty of face and figure ; in fact, she 
had not kept pace with her husband ; but he never 
confessed even to himself that he was disappointed, 
and indeed long habit had in great measure blinded 
him to the fact. Mr. Bryant worked hard in his 
parish and outside it, while Emma sat at home 
with her needlework and housekeeping ; whenever 
she liked she drove in the parks, or went for long, 
interesting, shopping excursions to Shoolbred's. 
Years had passed in this manner, and then one or 
two little circumstances waked Mr. Bryant up, as it 
were ; and set him asking himself, not only if he 
had ' got on ' as far as he had originally intended, 
but as far as was possible for the man he was. 
That instinct for ' getting on ' is very valuable, 
whether to nation or to individual ; but the man 
who wants to ' get on ' should beware of chaining 
himself to a lagging companion. One of two 
results must inevitably follow from that blunder ; 
either he will be brought to a premature standstill, 
possibly ill-humoured ; or the laggard will be forced 
beyond his speed : and he who goes beyond his speed 
goes to destruction. 

The first little circumstance was that the Bishop 

of X made Mr. Bryant's acquaintance through 

his brother, an admiring college friend of the London 
vicar's. The Bishop took a violent fancy to Mr. 
Bryant, and very nearly offered him an excellent 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 155 

country living in his gift, close to the pleasant 
cathedral town, where was the Palace and much 
valuable sacerdotal society. The idea of that living 
made Mr. Bryant's teeth water ; he had not known 
till the suggestion was made how tired he was of 
London and his daily laborious and ill-paid routine. 
The Bishop spent a day with him, took luncheon at 
the vicarage, and conversed friendlily, if somewhat 
shyly or stiffly, with Emma. In imagination Mr. 
Bryant took up residence in the country parson- 
age by the cathedral town. But the Bishop left 
London, and !Mr. Bryant never heard more of the 
fat living, nor did he ever understand what had 
been the slip between the cup and the lip. Only 
it happened that his lordship, a careless man, and 
writing on the same day to his brother and to Mr. 
Bryant, put the letters into the wrong envelopes, and 
Mr. Bryant, who of course read no farther than ' My 
dear brother,' did accidentally catch sight of the 
words, * wife would not be adapted to the society 

of ' He had no reason in the world to suppose 

that the remark had any connection with himself. 
Still it struck him and remained in his mind, 
playing the part of some accidental sound or flash 
of light which wakes the sleeper just before the 
housemaid brings the hot water and opens the 
shutters. And the second little circumstance was 
Sir Vincent Leicester's description of the absent 



156 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

Georgina and desire to marry her. A boyish, an 
absurd, a preposterous idea ; but again Mr. Bryant 
couldn't forget it ; and after thinking it over and 
learning a little more about his daughter, and hearing 
from herself and others that Vincent was not her 
only distinguished suitor, he sighed a little, and 
hoped he not been over hasty and over scrupulous 
in quenching his favourite pupil's pretensions. 

And just after he had arrived at this point came 
young Sir Vincent's very nice, modest, and affection- 
ate letter, offering him the vacant living^ of Everv^ell. 
It was not exactly promotion, as that fat living 

near X would have been ; still it is evident that 

the offer was tempting, and for more reasons than one. 
Only Emma hesitated and threw cold water. 'You are 
so sanguine, Edward,' she said, with a sigh ; ' and the 
young man will be always talking to us of Faverton.' 
' Nonsense, my love, nonsense,' said Mr. Bryant, 
and made up his mind. No sooner was his ap- 
pointment to the vacant benefice announced than 
welcoming letters from acquaintances in the new 
diocese poured in upon him. He was surprised to 
find he had already a reputation there, and felt that 
he was going to make a mark in his new parish, out 
of the world though it seemed. 

' You are always so sanguine, Edward,' repeated 

Mrs. Bryant ; 'I am sure I hope you won't repent it.' 

The very day before they left London for the 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 157 

north a letter arrived which perplexed Mr. Bryant 
not a little. It was from Georgina. 

' I hope, dearest papa, it will be convenient to 
you to receive me immediately. Auntie has emphatic 
reasons for wishing my temporary departure, and I 
am anxious for a long hoUday. I will give you 
further explanations when we meet.' 

' Most extraordinary,' commented Mr. Bryant ; 
* and inconvenient.' 

'Any other papa would be glad his daughter 
was coming home,' said Emma ; ' she'll be company 
for me, and I never could bear her being away so 
much with that foreign woman. It would serve us 
right if she turned Papist, or outlandish, or some- 
thing.' 

' Nonsense, my love,' said Mr. Bryant as usual ; 
but he was disquieted, and set off for his new parish 
nervously. Wliat would Sir Vincent think ? And 
what might not his lady mother think ? Georgina's 
advent was premature. 



CHAPTEE II 

If I were writing the history of Georgina Bryant, I 
should have to enter into many particulars of that 
winter of hers in Eome, for it had considerable 



158 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

influence on her character. As it is, I need but 
briefly explain the quarrel between her and her so- 
called aunt. 

' I hope, Georgina,' that lady had said, ' before 
the winter is over to have the satisfaction of arrang- 
ing a suitable marriage for you.' 

' Dear auntie,' said the girl, ' have we become so 
un-English ? sha'n't I arrange my own marriage ?' 

This was the season when Georgina was writing 
playful, familiar, affectionate letters to her dear 
cousin Vincent, whom she believed herself in love 
with, and whom she meant to retain as a lover. 
But she had abandoned all idea of marrying him. 
A rich, adoring, learned, noble, elderly husband, 
and crowds of admirers, of whom Vincent Leicester 
was chief, — that was Georgina's ideal at present. 
She wrote familiarly to Vincent, and she flirted 
with this man and that ; but she was all the while 
trying on Lord Cookham's coronet, deciding that it 
fitted, and wondering why he did not come to the 
point. Georgina certainly became presuming at this 
time, and the Baroness was displeased. However, 
the nobleman spoke at last. 

One day the Baroness called Georgina to her, 
and said she wished to thank the dear girl for the 
solicitous kindness she had ever shown to one whose 
life had been early shattered by the cruellest blow 
a woman's fate has at command. Georgina returned 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 159 

to her French novel till her aunt had exhausted 
this strain. She descanted further upon the deso- 
lation of a young and childless widow. 

Georgina, without looking up, remarked that a 
moneyless spinster was in a worse position, and an 
old bride was a more disagreeable spectacle. The 
lady's eye flashed, but she put her handkerchief to 
her eyes and lamented for her deceased Austrian 
husband. Georgina thought more of this would 
drive her distracted. 

* Why did you never tell me, dearest auntie,' she 
cried, ' that he was so beloved ? ' The Baroness 
dropped the sentimental air, wdiich indeed became 
her but indifferently, and said — 

' I have to speak to you, my dear, of marriage, 
but I see it will suit you best to describe it as a 
purely business transaction. Lord Cookham has 
spoken to me, Georgina.' The girl's eyes sparkled, 
and she^kissed the lady effusively. ' I have accepted 
his offer,' said the Baroness. 

' What, without consulting me ? ' said the de- 
lighted Georgina. 

' Your affectation of importance is absurd, my 
dear. No, I have not consulted a child like you.' 

' Oh, well, auntie dear, I have my own opinion, 
you know. Have you considered the difference of 
age, for instance ? It is highly disagreeable for the 
younger married person to be in constant attendance 



i6o MR, BRYANTS MISTAKE 

on one getting infirm and sickly and decrepit, — 
perhaps paralyzed, like old Colonel Endelby.' 

The Baroness rose in great dudgeon and said the 
girl was impertinent. ' I have known Lord Cook- 
ham for so long,' she went on ; ' the state of his 
affections has been the same for so many years, his 
heart and mind and soul have been so laid 
bare ' 

' Yes,' said Georgina, ' but all this should have 
been laid bare to me, if I am to marry him.' 

The Baroness turned and looked hard at her 
adopted daughter, half pityingly, half scornfully, 
wholly triumphantly. 

' You, Georgina ? ' she said, with a laugh ; ' you, 
my dear child ?' 

The girl understood now as by a lightning flash, 
and covered her discomfiture by a hearty fit of 
laughter, whether at herself or her aunt, who could 
tell ? 

From henceforth it was war. Georgina could 
not forget that she had been made a fool of. Nor 
could the Baroness forget that her dependent had 
been her rival. Lord Cookham, for years an 
avowed admirer of the widow, — she was only five 
years his senior, — had come to Eome with the 
express intention of seeking her hand. It was, 
however, true that his admiring eyes had strayed 
away to Georgina, and that this fact had very much 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE l6l 

delayed the proposal extorted from him at last by 
the dowager. Georgina soon understood it all, and 
took measures accordingly. Though it had become a 
matter of theft, she was more firmly resolved than 
ever to marry Lord Cookham ; she was now not 
merely covetous, she was burning for revenge. 

There ensued a secret and very reprehensible 
flirtation between the two, while the gentleman was 
nominally betrothed to the widow. Georgina gained 
a confession that he had proposed from a sense of 
duty, and would escape from his engagement to- 
morrow if it could be accomplished unscandalously. 
Yet he sighed, for his widow w^as rich and import- 
ant, well-informed and worthy ; while Georgina 
was just a handsome but ignorant and probably 
troublesome nobody — not at all the sort of wife to 
suit him in reality. Georgina sighed too, and gave 
him to understand she was dying of love. And 
then one day there was some "kissing, which had 
nothing to do with the proposed relation of uncle 
and niece, and the Baroness saw it ; and the moment 
of the crisis had come. 

Many a woman would have thrown the perfidious 
lover over at once. The Baroness was not going 
to give in to the audacious Georgina in that manner. 
She sent for Lord Cookham and gave him her opinion 
of his conduct and of the girl's, threatening to 
make the whole thing public. She explained who 

VOL. I 11 



1 62 MR. BRYANT^ S MISTAKE 

Georgina was : just a distant relative whom she 
had adopted out of charity ; her father the son of a 
small tradesman, probably a pawnbroker ; her step- 
mother of low origin and without a character ; the 
two of them vulgar, pushing people. Georgina had 
a showy manner, but by nature was pushing and 
vulgar too. Lord Cookham did not believe all this, 
but he believed enough to feel that the pursuit of 
Georgina was a game not worth its candle. He 
was very angry ; but, being the man he was, he began 
to desire escape from the toils of the designing 
young creature who had set herself to achieve his 
ruin. He and the Baroness made it up — to out- 
ward appearance at least ; and Georgina was 
defeated. She tried various attitudes : she was 
repentant ; she was heart -.broken ; she was love- 
sick ; she was sarcastic ; she was impertinent ; and 
she was always formidable. The Baroness was 
not to be taken in by her a second time. She 
must be crushed. Georgina was dismissed ; and 
with a long statement of accounts which proved 
that her constant habit of overdrawing her allowance 
had left her largely in debt to her benefactress. 
She spent a fortnight with some friends, who tried 
unsuccessfully to mediate between her and her 
relative, and upon failure, turned against the girl. 
She wrote to Lord Cookham, now safe in Austria ; 
he sent no answer for a month, and then declined 



IL L WEEDS GROW APACE 163 

to see her again, apologised lamely, and said that 
the wedding was fixed for the morrow. 

Georgina was under her father's roof by the 
time she received that letter, for none of her 
enemies had relented, and she had no other home to 
go to. She had played for too high stakes, and 
had lost. 

' ^0 matter,' she said, ' that sort of game re- 
quires practice. I was a beginner. And all is not 
lost. I have gained experience ; and I will marry 
my dear boy Vincent. After all, I detested Cook- 
ham, and I daresay it is more comfortable when 
one's kisses come from a man one likes. But I shall 
make a point of cultivating Lord Cookham when I 
am Lady Leicester. The old woman shall again 
suffer the stings of jealousy.' 



CHAPTEE III 

To receive the new parson, Sir Vincent Leicester 
returned to Everwell in the early days of sunny 
June. He was in high good humour, for he was 
full of energy, had let his place at Faverton advan- 
tageously, and was, he believed, able to laugh at his 
folly about Nannie Eandle. Even Alick he greeted 
with friendliness, for the man had made a voluntary 



i64 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

apology, and Sir Vincent, aware that the rupture 
had been partly his own fault, convinced too that 
Alick had been temporarily crazy, had decided 
against any manifestations of resentment. And, 
indeed, upon his return, he found Alick risen to a 
position so dignified that it was necessary to treat 
him with respect. 

Mr. Bryant, the new parson, was admitted by all 
to be the coming Messiah ; but who ever heard of a 
Messiah without a forerunner — a John the Baptist ? 
Alick Eandle had accepted the situation. For with 
the hot weather typhus had broken out in the fish- 
ing village, and great consequent alarm, which Alick, 
seeing his opportunity, partly allayed and partly 
fomented by the introduction of a sudden and spread- 
ing fervency of religion. His last salutary attack 
of brain fever had left him increased in wisdom and 
moral stature, and in favour with God and man. 
This was Dr. Verrill's account. Alick himself only 
said modestly that the call to preach had come, and 
it was not for him to resist. ' Things took their way 
gradually, you see, my lady,' he explained. 'When 
Sir Vincent wrote to me that I was to get this little 
shed in the village highway turned into a building 
for a Sunday schoolhouse, at the request of the new 
minister, it was borne in on my mind very strongly 
that it was a temple for the Lord we were called 
to build, like Moses or Solomon. And I got talking 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 165 

of it natural like to a many of the men about, and 
without meaning it, that come into a sort of preach- 
ment. And when it came to the adorning of the 
house, I found there wasn't no one who had had it 
put into his heart so clear as into mine, like Bezaleel 
and Aholiab, what was wanted. So I have done it 
myself, and the folk used to come and look on ; and 
then it came natural to speak to them a bit. But 
when we have the new minister among us, then 
I cannot think it will be my place to preach any 
longer.' 

Lady Katharine was pious, and could not at once 
find a flaw in Alick's title to a hearing. Besides he 
was impressive in this little temple he had planned 
and beautified out of slender materials. He was 
working at an illuminated text as he spoke, 
watched by a knot of young people, at once respect- 
ful and curious, and as the sunshine shone on 
his earnest face and swift steady hand. Lady 
Katharine and Sir Vincent watched and wondered 
and admired also, and listened to what he said. 
No doubt Alick Eandle had some spiritual power of 
commanding attention, but much of his influencing 
force was purely physical. He had eyes that made 
you look at him, and a voice that made you hear. 
Alick never was five minutes in any company that 
every one was not looking ' to see what he was going 
to do.' Everwell had been watching Alick all his 



1 66 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

life to see what he was going to do. Was he to be 
a handy carpenter like Jim Leach, or a celebrated 
' hartist ' like his grandfather ? For long he had 
been undecided and desultory. But the call had 
come now, and he had stepped boldly forth. His role 
was understood at once : he was to be a Voice crying 
in the wilderness — a forerunner of the new minister 
who was coming to save the souls of the people. 

Before the new parson's arrival Mrs. Leach had 
a question to ask. She was telling her son about 
her first visit to their newly-arrived relatives at the 
Home Farm. 'It was so long since I'd seen 'em, 
Alick, my dear,' she said, ' it quite upset me. " Ben," 
says T, " my heart goes out to you, a widow man 
still and me a widow woman again." There's 
nothing like one's own kindred for drawing aside the 
curtains of the heart and making one reveal secrets 
— meaning my first husband's kindred, so they be.' 

' And did you reveal secrets, mother ? ' said 
Alick, indifferently. 

' Oh no. I'm a very secret woman,' said Mrs. 
Leach, who had but a hazy recollection of that 
agitating conversation ; ' still I talked a bit of 
Nannie, who was a babe when her mother was took, 
and I been like a second parent to her. Her father 
never was grateful like he ought ; but gratitood, 
Alick, is not what a single-hearted and double- 
widowed woman like me should look after in this 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 167 

life. No one can say I ain't a prudent woman/ con- 
tinued Mrs. Leach, ' when I didn't even tell the 
name of the new minister who's a-coming, and they 
not knowing it, poor ignorant bodies.' 

*■ Why shouldn't you have told his name ? ' 
growled Alick. 

' Eun away, Sal ; run away, Liz, my pretty dears. 
I'm talking confidences with your good brother. 
Why now, Alick,' and she came nearer and dropped 
her voice, 'Alick, my lad, the new parson's name is 
Bryant. Now that's the very name of my brother- 
in-law who married Emma, and is a parson, and 
made her a lady.' 

Alick had often heard of that parsonical brother- 
in-law, and was highly sceptical about him. Mr. 
Bryant and Aunt Emma, so Nannie reported, were 
never mentioned at the farm, as would have been 
only natural had they been so creditable to the 
family. Alick had a recollection of Aunt Emma 
when he had been a small boy at Faverton, and she 
a tearful woman pleading for something stern Aunt 
Sarah refused to give. That recollection gave no 
exalted impression of Aunt Emma, and Alick had 
long arrived at the conclusion that Bryant was some 
kind of swindler. 

At this moment Sir Vincent came in, and Mrs. 
Leach was going to mention the coincidence when 
Alick hastily interposed, to prevent allusion to the 



1 68 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

ambiguous brother-in-law. 'Mother was saying, 
sir/ said Alick, ' that she once knew a minister 
named Bryant who belonged to London, and was 
wondering if it could be the same ; ' and Vincent 
replied that Bryant was a common name, and 
London a large place, and he believed — he was not 
sure — that his Mr. Bryant came from Essex, or per- 
haps from Manchester. And Mrs. Leach said she 
had known her Mr. Bryant at Faverton in the days 
of her first husband, poor dear Jim Eandle. 

' Oh, then, it is clearly not the same,' said 
Vincent. ' Mr. Bryant never heard of Faverton ex- 
cept from me ; ' and the subject dropped. Vincent 
could have given no direct authority for that last 
statement ; but he had made it in good faith, the 
result of many conversations with his tutor in old 
times, when the name of the pupil's home had come 
into the talk. 

' I told you it wasn't the same, mother,' said 
Alick, gruffly ; but Mrs. Leach was not entirely con- 
vinced, though she held her peace, being a prudent 
and a secret woman. 

Then Vincent started for Tanswick, where he was 
to meet Mr. and Mrs. Bryant. There was no particu- 
lar cause for elation, but he did feel elated ; so did 
Mr. Bryant himself when he arrived, and so did 
Alick, his forerunner, who had walked far along the 
road for a first glimpse of the man of God. How 



IL L WEEDS GR W A PA CE \ 69 

his face lighted up when he saw the attractive, 
benevolent, good countenance of the new clergyman, 
for whom he had prayed and on whom he was stak- 
ing his hopes. The artist in Alick saw at once that 
the expression, the voice, the manner were verily 
those of the ideal pastor. His prayers were heard ! 
God had a favour unto Everwell ! ' Her day of 
darkness was ended ; the dawn of her righteousness 
had come. 

' Hallo, Alick ! ' sang out Sir Vincent, ' tell Mrs. 
Leach I left my pencil-case at her house, and ask 
her to send up one of the lads with it.' From which 
remark and a few added explanations the quick- 
witted Mr. Bryant made a mental note — ^ 

* Alick Leach ; influential, godly ; to be treated 
with friendliness and some caution.' 

Alick went to bed that night as pleased as 
possible ; but both Sir Vincent and Mr. Bryant had 
felt a sobering touch on their spirits. To each it 
had come from Emma. 

Vincent had taken for granted that his friend's 
wife would be charming. She proved not only 
tumbled and dusty, but stout and too hot ; a little 
fretful and very shy ; obviously, not ideal like 
Mr. Bryant. The crowd round the parsonage door, 
which delighted every one else, alarmed her and 
made her awkward. There was the postman with 
his mouth wide open : and the baker, and the sexton, 



170 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

and old John the butler, and all the young Leaches, 
and a group of fishermen ; and young Joe Eandle, 
the newcomer, with a straw in his mouth, and a 
gorgeous necktie. And there was Miss Verrill in 
a pot hat and a much abbreviated skirt, sitting 
smoking on the wall ; and the coatless doctor smell- 
ing some lichen he had found in the crevices. Miss 
Verrill jumped down and rushed across the road to 
seize Mrs. Bryant's hand, crying, ' I am glad, ma'am, 
to welcome you to Everwell. Female society has 
been at a discount here.' 

Mrs. Bryant was terrified, and turned her back 
on the apparition. Then she saw the doctor running 
away with a basket she had cherished for the whole 
journey, and which contained some ill-packed china, 
her best cap, the remains of sandwiches, and a pot 
of begonia. The latter article had attracted the 
vegetarian, and he was already eating the one young 
leaf. ' Edward,' said Mrs. Bryant, stung into speech, 
' will you require that rude man to let my things 
alone.' The Verrills both took a dislike to Mrs. 
Bryant. And now, worst of all, the stately Lady 
Katharine and her formidable maid appeared at the 
hall door. They had come an hour ago to see that 
all was ready, and had themselves prepared a dainty 
tea in the dining-room, while the charwoman held 
up her hands, saying, ' Eh now, my lady ! Lord 
bless us ! my lady ! ' 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 171 

But the charwoman was less confused than poor 
Emma, who had seen Lady Katharine Kane in her 
youth, and regarded her as a far-off divinity. When 
Sir Vincent's mother offered her hand, Mrs. Bryant 
drew hers awkwardly back ; she sat down on the 
chair her husband had placed for Lady Katharine, 
and then discovering her mistake, jumped up 
nervously, and could hardly be induced to sit down 
at all. She almost let slip 'My lady,' like a 
country girl again. Mr. Bryant had never observed 
his wife so awkward before, and was unspeakably 
mortified. 

* Vincent, love,' said Lady Katharine, when later 
she and her son were walking home together, ' Mr. 
Bryant is exactly what I expected from your descrip- 
tion. I am so delighted to have him here ; but 
tell me, did it strike you that Mrs. Bryant is a 
little — ^just a very little — what I should be tempted 
to call underhred, you know ?' And then his mother 
proceeded cautiously, but with certain suspicions in 
her mind, to give him another shock. ' She tells 
me,' said Lady Katharine, ' that Miss Bryant, her 
stepdaughter, is coming here very soon.' After this 
there was silence ; they were both foreseeing com- 
plications, and Vincent's elation had all oozed out 
at his finger ends. 



172 MR. Bryant's mistake 



CHAPTEE IV 



During all these months Alick had kept silence to 
Nannie, while she had lived on in his mother's 
house, his daily friend and companion. The frivolities 
of innocent courtship which might have grown up 
in the early days of his affection had been effectually 
nipped in the bud by that dark suspicion of Sir 
Vincent, and by his own sombre religious views, 
the influence of which spread daily. Nor had love 
of the mating kind as yet entered into Nannie's 
thoughts ; nay, a hint of it, a suspicion that it could 
be in Alick's, offended her. But now, in June, this 
chapter in their lives was closed, for Nannie's father 
had come to Everwell, and it was not to be expected 
that the girl would be left with her aunt, nor that 
her intimacy with Alick could continue without 
some definite relationship. Alick had made up his 
mind to speak to her plainly ; and he had good 
hopes, for he knew that Nannie was as fond of him 
as she could possibly be of any one short of a lover. 
This evening she had been with him in the new 
schoolhouse — his temple, as he called it — watching 
him complete a little bit of decoration, and helping 
him to arrange the benches for the new parson's 
dehnt. 'And now we'll walk over to the farm, 



ILL WEEDS GR W A FA CE 1 73 

Alick, won't we ? ' said Nannie, tapping his arm. 
'I can't think however they'll do here. Why 
they'll be foreigners ! But I now, I'm like Ever- 
well born and bred, ain't I, Alick ? ' 

He looked at her flushed cheek, and his own grew 
very pale ; yes, that chapter in their lives was ended. 
Alick pointed to the little chancel he had contrived, 
for in his ignorance he had made his temple as like the 
church as he could, and to the dark oak table which 
stood under the high-up eastern window — an altar 
surely, and God's unseen angel for officiating priest! 
' Nannie, lass, come up there a minute and kneel 
with me.' Nannie obeyed rather listlessly. 

'Will God hear us more here than on the rocks 
or the hills, Alick ? ' she asked. 

' I suppose so, Nan, or why should we have 
churches or temples ? But, lassie, I pray this prayer 
to Him everywhere, lest, after all, He might like best 
the sea strand or the hillside as He made Himself ; ' 
and he took her hand and led her to the step of 
the little chancel, the girl consenting, but half un- 
willing. He had a fancy that it was the hour of 
their spiritual marriage. ' I will tell thee all pre- 
sently,' said Alick ; ' but ask Him to grant it first, 
Nannie ! Pray for it earnestly. It is not a common 
thing, and it is life or death to me.' Nannie sprang 
to her feet. 

' Oh, Alick, come away. I can't pray like that. 



174 MR. Bryant's MISTAKE 

God wouldn't like it. It is like — Alick, it is like 
the Wishing Well ! ' Alick looked round shuddering, 
as if her words had been those of some alien spirit. 
' Lad/ said IN'annie, apologetically, ' say out what it 
is, and we'll ask Him together. I know it's right 
to ask God for everything ; only not telling me ! it 
made me feel as if we were playing with Him.' 

' Ay, maybe I was wrong ! Maybe God thought 
I was playing with Him ! If He don't hear me, 
Nannie, I'll know its punishment.' 

' Tell me what it is, Alick, dear,' said l^annie 
gently. He let his eyes rest on her sweet, fair face, 
and his voice was almost soundless from emotion 
when he answered, slowly, after a pause — 

' Nannie, I'll say it here at God's footstool. I 
want thee for my lass, Nannie ; for my wife.' Then 
he rose suddenly and would have embraced her ; but 
Nannie, with a little scream, flung him from her, 
starting back and standing defiantly at a short dis- 
tance, her hands clasped and her eyes flashing. 

' I will not have you nor no one saying such 
things to me, Alick ! ' she said, angrily, and turned 
away, going to the door and waiting there im- 
periously for him to come and open it. Alick was 
alarmed by what he had done ; after all his waiting, 
he had spoken too soon. 

In a few minutes, as Alick did not move and 
she was imprisoned with him, Nannie walked back 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 175 

with stately step, shook his arm, and then stood 
before him with an air of quivering scorn. ' I 
couldn't think of marrying you, Alick,' she said. 'I 
won't. There ! ' 

Alick simply turned aw^ay. Then Xannie re- 
turned to the door without looking back till she 
reached it. 

' Are you going to leave me to walk up alone, 
Alick ? ' 

' Where to ? ' said he. 

' Home — to father.' He roused himself. 

' You'll come back afterw^ards wdth me, lass ? ' 

' No ; I shall stop there after this,' said Nannie, 
proudly. ' Unlock the door, Alick.' 

He followed her out, turning the key as usual, 
while Nannie stood beside him, holding his paint- 
brushes ; none of the bystanders noticed anything 
different from yesterday about them. Then they 
walked away through the falling dusk, Alick hurry- 
ing along in front and Nannie following as best she 
could ; both sternly silent, but thinking hard. After 
a long time Alick noticed her lagging and he heard 
a little sob. Looking back, he found Nannie in 
tears, and as he stopped she joined him, and put 
out a gentle hand and laid it in his. 

' Forgive me, dear lad, if I haven't answered you 
properly,' said little Nannie ; ' I'm not at all used 
to have such things said to me.' 



176 MR. BRYANfS MISTAKE 

' Nan,' said Alick, abruptly, ' you hadn't meant 
to leave us for good and all. Forget them foolish 
words of mine and come back home, lassie.' 

' If I thought you didn't mean it, Alick ! ' 

' Mean it, lass ? I meant it sure enough. I 
know very well, Nannie, I'm crooked and ill- 
favoured, and ill to live with ' 

' Alick, how can you ? ' interrujfted Nannie, ' as 
if all that would matter in any one one loved ! ' 

'Ay, lass, but women aren't like to love a man 
with those qualities,' said Alick, sadly. Nannie 
was silent for a moment. His tone moved her. 

' Oh, Alick, I couldn't ; I couldn't marry anybody ! 
I never thought of marrying before. I thought you 
were like my brother. I never thought of anything 
else. It isn't right for cousins to marry, is it ? ' 
she said, desperately. 

' Ay, it is, Nannie,' said Alick. You don't care 
for no one else, lassie ? Set my mind at ease by 
saying that.' Nannie's cheek grew hot. 

'No, Alick, I never thought of marrying. I'm 
only seventeen,' she said, hastily and incoherently. 
' I have never seen a man it would do for me to 
want to marry.' 

' Nannie ! ' said Alick, with something of a groan, 
' I wish you'd marry me. I cannot think you'll be 
safe without me to take care of you.' 

' Safe from what, dear lad ? ' 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 177 

' From wicked persons, Nannie. I wish you 
wasn't so pretty ' 

'Maybe you wouldn't have wanted me then, 
Alick/ said Nannie, saucy through her tears. ' Men 
aren't like to love a woman that isn't pretty.' 

' Ay, Nannie, that's it,' said Alick. ' I'm afraid 
some as shouldn't will be thinking you, like I do, 
the prettiest lass in the world. I'd have loved thee 
anyhow, dear lass.' 

' Alick, I will think over what you say. Maybe 
I'll love you enough some day. But you mustn't 
say no more now. I'll be your little sister, like I 
always was.' Then she put her hand in his. 
' Maybe some day, lad ; when I'm older.' 

They had reached the farmhouse now, and both 
stopped by a common impulse, looking at each other 
sadly before entering. 

'You'll give me a kiss, Nannie, because I love 
you so ? ' 

' I have often kissed you afore, Alick. I don't 
mind kissing you now if you wish it.' 

' But I don't want that sort of kiss, Nannie, like 
you have given me afore.' 

' I will not have you kiss me no other now,' said 
Nannie, with a little relapse into offence. Then 
she pushed open the door and went in ; but her 
lover turned and hurried away, still left to the 
agony of hope deferred. 

VOL I. 12 



178 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 



CHAPTEE V 

The door opened directly on the large square hall, 
where Nannie's two sisters, her sister-in-law, and 
two brothers, were all assembled for the evening 
meal, round an oak table of great size and antiquity, 
above which hung an iron lamp, just lighted and 
flaring uncomfortably. The sister-in-law, a stranger 
to Nannie, was a very superb young woman in 
black satin and jewellery, prodigiously admired in 
her own circle, especially by her husband, a very 
dapper young man who drove a dogcart, and whom 
Nannie held in some awe. This couple had only 
come to Everwell for a few days to see the new 
place, which fact accounted for the leisurely mag- 
nificence of their attire. Miss Eandle — Patty — 
was dressed with extreme plainness ; her turn-down 
white collar and neatly plaited hair suited her 
square - featured, old-maidish, but not unpleasing 
countenance. Caroline, three years younger than 
Patty, was considered delicate, a beauty, and quite 
the lady. Joe was the best looking, and by far the 
least conceited of the family. One and all they despised 
Everwell, and couldn't conceive what had bewitched 
father to come to this outlandish spot where there 
was no society, no style, and no convenience. 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE i79 

Into this very superior family enter Nannie, 
the child of nature. She was seized by a panic, 
such as she had not suffered from in the presence 
of even her ladyship ; so she stood in the doorway, 
her hand on the latch, hesitating and trembling. 

' La, Patty, whoever's this ! ' exclaimed Mrs. 
John, genuinely astonished. 

The brothers both thought it playful to banter 
their youngest sister. 

' It's the Scarlet Eunner !' said Joe. 

'An Everwell fishing lass!' said John; 'go 
away, my dear; herrings don't suit our stomach at 
this hour. Or if it's begging you are, we don't give 
to people we don't know.' 

Tor shame, Nannie, coming out alone at this 
hour ! ' said Patty ; and Caroline exclaimed — 

' Did you ever see such a figure ? Why, she 
doesn't look as respectable as Janet ! ' 

Nannie advanced, trembling. ' I have come 
home, Patty. Aren't you going to kiss me ? 
Where is father V 

' Father hasn't recovered himself after the visit 
he had from your Aunt Ann. He wouldn't have 
come here if he had known the sort of tipsy relations 
he had. I wonder you didn't tell us, Nannie ; but 
I suppose you like that sort of thing, as you chose 
a whole year of it. Joe, tell father Nannie has 
come, dropping in by herself in the dark for all the 



i8o MR. Bryant's MISTAKE 

world like a repented runaway ; and ask him what 
we are to do.' 

Nannie was quite taken aback by this reception, 
and felt her scarce-wiped tears coming again. ' Indeed, 
Alick w^alked with me the whole way,' she faltered. 

' I don't know as that makes it any better,' 
answered Patty, severely ; ' it never was my notion 
of propriety for a young woman to take long walks 
of an evening alone with her young man, especially 
when she's not of an age to have a young man at all' 

' I don't know what you mean,' said Nannie. 

' Don't you ? Perhaps you don't know we've 
heard all about you and Alick. I must say, 
Nannie, if it is all right and proper, as I suppose 
you'll say it is, you ought to have told father your- 
self, and not have left the news for a stranger to 
tell, who had the last right in the world to know 
anything about you and your sweethearts. Why 
don't you come in, child, if you have done nothing 
to be ashamed of, instead of standing there in the 
door like a beggar ? ' 

At this moment Mr. Eandle appeared, a well- 
fed, vigorous man, with an expression of much 
resolution and some ill-temper. 

' Father,' cried Nannie, springing forward and 
seizing his hand, ' aren't you glad to see me ? What 
does Patty mean ? Mayn't I come home and be 
your daughter again ? ' 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE i8i 

' My daughter indeed ! ' said Mr. Eandle, holding 
her at arm's length, ' what have you got an inkling 
too ? I suppose she inkles it all round when she's 
in liquor. We'll wash our dirty linen at home, 
^an. You may come home, my girl, and the more 
you stay at liome the better. I've heard a thing or 
two of you as don't seem creditable to my daughter 
as you call yourself. But look ye, Nannie ; there's 
only one way out of these doubts and disgraces. I 
never was partial to disgraces nor apt to be tender 
to them as brought them into my family. You are 
my daughter, you know, and I'll give you a portion 
like the tothers, but the sooner you marry your 
hunchback and take yourself off my hands the 
better pleased I'll be.' 

All this time the farmer had been holding the 
girl by the two hands at arm's leugth ; now he 
pushed her back and threw her from him with 
some violence. ' Patty,' he said, ' set a place for 
Nannie, and come to supper all of you.' 

Nannie stood white and trembling, but erect, 
facing her brothers and sisters, who were all staring 
at her, and as much astonished by their father's 
expressions as she was herself The dapper Mr. 
John alone seemed a little sorry ; he put a chair for 
her and chucked her under the chin, saying — 

' Cheer up, my dear ; you haven't turned out so 
ill-favoured as we expected.' 



i82 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

Nannie raised a proud little head, and fixed her 
eyes on her father's. 

' I won't eat a bit in this house/ she said, ' till 
I know what you all mean. Patty, will you show 
me some place upstairs where I can be quiet and 
alone ? ' 

' By , you shall sit at table when I bid you,' 

roared the farmer ; but N'annie did not listen, nor 
did she hear her father call after her as she left 
the hall, 'Don't you come down no more in those 
play-acting clothes, Nan, anS cut off them red locks. 
However you come by 'em, I won't have no flaunting 
of them in my house ; at least, not till you've 
wedded your hunchback.' 

Nannie was taken to a pleasant enough little 
chamber looking out towards the sea, and Patty, 
slightly more gracious now, said they had intended 
to send for her to-morrow, and marvelled she 
had not been up to see them the day they had 
arrived. 

' Patty,' interrupted Nannie, ' what is it father 
and you think I have done ? I have done nothing, 
Patty ! Alick never asked me to marry him till 
this evening. I never thought of such a thing. 
I said. No. Of course I said, No. And I have no 
home but this, Patty, for I can't go back there now 
he thinks of that. But I said. No. Why is father 
angry ? ' 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 183 

' My dear, he wishes you to marry Alick/ replied 
Patty. 

' But I can't/ cried Nannie, vehemently ; ' I don't 
want ever to marry anybody at all. Why does 
father not like me for a daughter ? Is it because 
mother died when I was a baby ? I couldn't help 
it. I wish I had mother to-night. She would 
never have spoken to me so, and have looked at me 
so, when I have done nothing ! ' 

* It was only some tipsy nonsense of Aunt Ann's,' 
said Patty. ' I was surprised at father taking notice 
of it.' 

' Patty, you must tell me. About my behaviour, 
father said ? Oh, what could any one say about me ! 
and — and — Alick is it, Patty ? I used to go about 
with him — yes — I thought he was just like my 
own brother ' 

'Aunt Ann said nothing about Alick. She 
didn't mention his name. But I'm afraid, Nannie, 
your own words show you have been very light. 
It was Sir Vincent told us about you and Alick.' 
And Patty looked at the girl searchingly. 

' Sir Vincent ! ' Nannie grew scarlet of course ; 
any ready blusher will understand that. But Patty 
had never blushed in her life, and her sister's sudden 
glow frightened her. 

' Was there ever anything between Sir Vincent 
and you, Nannie ? ' said the elder sister. 



i84 MR. Bryant's mistake 

' I don't know what you mean ! Between Sir 
Vincent and me t Why, how could there be ? ' cried 
Nannie. 

There was a moment's silence, Patty feeling her- 
self far too young and inexperienced to deal with a 
case of this kind. 

'Patty, I must know; you must tell me what 
makes you say such things,' said Nannie, with forced 
calm. 

' My dear, I am very sorry if it vexes you, but 
motherless girls like us have to be put on our 
guard. And I do think father was so wrong to let 
you come to this savage place, and with Aunt Ann 
got into such shocking ways. And you never told 
us. For shame, Nannie ; that wasn't like a proper- 
minded girl.' 

' Oh, never mind about Aunt Ann now ! I want 
to know what made you say — what made you think 
such things about Sir Vincent.' 

' Well, Nan, he spoke of you to us, and Caroline and 
me did think he seemed a bit inclined to notice you, 
whicli would be dreadfully improper of him, you know.' 

' He never noticed me ! ' said Nannie of the flam- 
ing cheeks, tossing her head. 

' We spoke of it together,' continued Patty, ' but 
not very much, for at that time we never fancied a 
member of our family could be anything but conducted. 
We forgot, my dear, how young you were, and always 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 185 

a handful, Nannie ; and away among wild people — 
we didn't know how wild and misbeha^inCT ' 

o 

' You needn't go out of your way to abuse all my 
friends ! ' cried Nannie ; ' I love them all dearly ! ' 

' Then Sir Yincent persuaded father to come here. 
We wondered why ' 

' He wanted a good farmer to put on the land,' 
interrupted the girl. 

' There ! you see you have talked to him/ said 
Patty, triumphantly. 

' It is all perfectly simple,' said Nannie. ' Why 
should you suppose Sir Yincent had any extraordi- 
nary motive ? ' 

' We didn't think so, till we heard Aunt Ann 
go on about Sir Yincent and you.' 

'About Sir Yincent and me? — me, Patty? 
Patty, I am very fond of Aunt Ann. I know her 
and love her, and she is Alick's mother, and has 
been very kind to me ; but it doesn't do to believe 
all she says, especially when she ' 

' Is drunk,' said Patty ; ' you seem quite used to 
that. For shame, Nannie ! She wasn't actually drunk, 
or we shouldn't have let her into the house, nasty 
woman. And we didn't notice all she said, but it just 
set us thinking ; and so now, you see, my dear, why we 
are all anxious you should get married to Alick, as he 
is willing to have you,' ended Patty, condescendingly. 

' I'll never marry Alick just because folk have 



i86 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

said what isn't true,' said Nannie, shaking all over 
with wrath, 'None of that is true about Sir Vincent. 
He has spoken to me sometimes. I suppose he'd 
speak to you if he met you, wouldn't he ? ' 

' Oh, I'm different,' said Miss Eandle ; ' no man 
alive could ever take liberties with me. And as to 
you, Nannie, you aren't pretty enough for men to 
notice you, without you make them. Caroline now 
— it isn't her fault if they look at her sometimes. 
It's a distress to her.' 

' Patty,' said Nannie, abruptly, ' you have made 
me so angry, so insulted like, that if I had any- 
where to go, I'd leave the house and go right off 
this very minute. And I'll do it, I will indeed, if 
I'm spoken to this fashion again.' And the girl 
pushed her half- frightened elder away, and only 
waited till she was alone to burst into a storm of 
frantic tears. Nannie blew out her candle and sat 
by the open window, her bare elbows on the sill and 
her chin resting on her hands, while she watched 
the moon sailing over the heavens, making an island 
of purple light in the gray sky and a long, shimmer- 
ing, golden path across the sea. Sailmg down it she 
could discern the black forms of the fishing-boats ; 
and close at hand was the dark outline of the glen's 
rugged sides, framing that vision of the moonlight 
and the sea. Nannie gazed at it and thought — oh, 
so wearily and anxiously ! How often good people 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 187 

by well-meant interference strengthen the very ideas 
they wish to destroy. Nannie had long thought of 
Sir Vincent Leicester, but to-night her thoughts of 
him took a new meaning. Then he had not looked 
at her and spoken to her as he looked at and spoke 
to Patty ? And she herself — no, she would never, 
never, never be able to think of him as that cold 
sister of hers contrived to do. ' Has she no eyes ? ' 
thought Nannie ; ' how can she help seeing he is 
quite, quite different from John, or Alick, or any 
one ? And how can one help liking best any one 
who is the best, and the noblest, and the — the most 
heautiful person,' said little Nannie, ' one has ever 
seen ? I don't believe it is wrong. Oh, how I wish 
I had been born a lady ! No one would have 
thought it wrong then ! ' And she rose and paced 
the room with a sense of being caged, like a wild 
beast at a fair. 

* Oh, what has Alick gone and spoiled everything 
for ! ' she said to herself. ' I didn't know an offer was 
a thing to make one so angry. I should have thought 
it would feel nice ; and when it came from any one 
I am fond of too, like Alick ! And I half promised 
that some day I'd have him, and father wdshes it ! 
Oh dear ! I hope no one will ever make me an offer 
again,' said the poor little virgin ; ' it is dreadful to 
be made so angry ! ' The sense of being caged grew 
too strong for Nannie. She hated the little strange 



1 88 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

room and the house where people thought untrue 
things of her. And the moon looked so bright over 
the sea, and the air in the wild valley smelt so sweet. 
There was a stair just outside her room which led 
to the back door. It was open, as Nannie knew 
by the fresh draught which blew in her face as she 
peered down the darkened staircase. She slipped 
(mt cautiously, silently, secretly, crying to herself — 
L;he who had never cried in that manner before, and 
had had no sorrows of her own worse than a dull 
negative sort of occasional heartache, because she 
had no mother and her father did not love her, and 
life with her aunt was sometimes sordid and always 
a little laborious. ' Shall I go home to her now ? ' 
she asked herself as she went out. 'Alick would 
nemr let folk say untrue things of me. Oh dear ! 
I don't know if it is all quite untrue ! Perhaps it 
is tliat, that which makes me angry with Alick and 
makes me not want to be his wife.' 

Vincent was beside her. Wandering about, his 
dog at his heels, no longer elated, but glad to be back 
at Everwell ; alarmed by the attraction the place and 
its inhabitants — one inhabitant — had for him, 
Vincent found himself suddenly and unexpectedly 
in the presence of the very person of whom he was 
thinking ; who was Everwell to him — the magnet. 
He had seen her this evening in her lover's presence, 
and had been as properly indifferent in his manner 



ILL WEEDS CROW APACE 189 

as even Alick could wish ; but he had gone home 
with a great suspicion that, after all, his six months' 
flight had not done much — had not eradicated the 
poison from the arrow of Eros. And now here she 
was before him ; and she was alone and in tears. 

' Xannie ! ' exclaimed Vincent, and stopped quite 
abruptly and unintentionally by her side, i^annie 
started, and her tears ceased, as tears will at a 
sudden change of thought. For a few minutes 
they were both speechless, and they looked at each 
other embarrassed, half guilty and wholly delighted, 
as they had looked at each other once or twice 
before. That sort of mute conversation a few times 
repeated tells a great deal. After it there was 
little matter what were the few trivial sentences 
which they exchanged, each a little hurried and 
panting, and feeling that it was best to say what- 
ever came into their heads so as to take away any 
significance from that impulsive greeting. But 
somehow Xannie knew that he was trembling as 
much as she ; and when he had gone on his way, 
he looked back once and saw her still standing where 

o 

he had left her, her light figure conspicuous in the 
moonlight. 

Xannie did not cry again. She sat down on a 
low moss -covered rock, smiling to herself as she 
traced curious circles on the ground with her foot ; 
thinking, not very intelligibly ; hardly thinking, only 



190 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

feeling comforted and a little disappointed ; a little 
frightened and a little guilty, but glad on the whole, 
and qidte sure now that she couldn't and wouldn't 
and shouldn't cast her admiration for the greatest 
and noblest of the sons of men out of her aspiring 
and foolish heart. You see, Nannie had read plays 
in Miss Verrill's lumber-room, where she was a 
privileged visitor ; and she knew how Viola loved the 
duke and Helena wanted the count, which was all 
one like loving a bright particular star. And she 
had no mother to explain to her that that kind of 
thing is all wrong in the nineteenth century. Patty 
gave her the information far too roughly ; and 
Nannie did not feel at all enamoured of pro- 
priety as presented in the person of her staid and 
excellent eldest sister. It were far preferable, she 
thought, to resemble Viola. But at last Nannie saw 
her brother John coming towards her, smart, and 
vulgar, and as unromantic as Patty. And all her 
bright dreams faded away, and she recognised that 
she, with her red hair, could never be anything to 
Sir Vincent, and that he didn't care a button for her 
— not one button ; never had done so ; never, never 
would do so. And she would be very silly indeed to 
waste her affections on him ; and her family would 
not think her ' conducted ' if they knew, and Alick 
would break his heart. Would it, I wonder, have 
distressed John Eandle to understand the effect his 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 191 

dapper appearance and smug expression produced on 
the innocent heart of his little sister ? 

She fled back to her own room before he had 
seen her. 



CHAPTEE VI 

See Sir Vincent Leicester's dogcart spinning across 
the moor between Tanswick and Everwell ; and Mr. 
Bryant, who has not yet had time to provide his 
wife with her pony-carriage, driving, with a keen 
sense of delight in the fast-trotting chestnut mare 
and his own impromptu skill in handling the reins. 
He feels a different man from the mere hard-work- 
ing London parson in the shabby coat and up to his 
eyes in business. Here he is half a country gentle- 
man. Everwell is not populous, and he will inevit- 
ably have leisure ; and Mr. Bryant has never 
consorted with people of leisure. It has come to 
be synonymous for him with birth, breeding, station, 
society, honour — matters which till now he has 
only been admonished of far off. 

There is a remarkably handsome young lady by 
his side, and Mr. Bryant is more delighted and 
surprised by her than by his own skill in driving 
and his own opening leisure. How his heart beats 
when she says caressingly and with genuine satis- 



192 MR. Bryant's mistake 

faction, ' Eeally, papa, I had no idea you knew so 
much about driving. Where did you learn it ? 
And how nice you look with that beard ! I had 
quite forgotten what you were like.' 

Ah, she was a beautiful creature ! The father 
surveyed her and no longer saw the smallest in- 
congruity in Sir Vincent's proposals. She was a 
thousand times prettier than ever her uninteresting 
mother had been ; handsomer than Emma in her 
fairest days. Poor, dear Emma ! Mr. Bryant felt 
with an uneasy qualm, that the stepmother would 
seem plain and homely to this splendid girl. 

About a mile from the vicarage, when they were 
close to the Heights, Lady Katharine and her son 
came towards them taking a stroll. Now there was 
nothing in the whole day so enjoyable to the widow 
as that walk or drive with her son, and Vincent 
seldom failed to present himself for it. Lady 
Katharine at these times was always in her happiest 
mood, beaming upon the whole world. And so she 
smiled now upon Mr. Bryant and Georgina — dear ! 
what a beautiful girl ! — so warmly, that the clergy- 
man instinctively checked the mare ; and then the 
pedestrians stopped too, and he sprang down from 
the cart to converse with them, and Georgina was 
left enthroned above and alone. The young people 
both became scarlet at sight of each other, for both 
remembered very decided faithlessness to the affec- 



ILL WEEDS GROW A PA CE 1 93 

tion they had entertained at parting, and which 
they proposed now promptly to renew. And the 
two parents, seeing the blushes, sought each other's 
eye, and in a moment understood everything per- 
fectly, and even exchanged an involuntary smile. 
Lady Katharine, caught in a benevolent mood, had 
committed herself irrevocably to Georgina's cause. 
As to Vincent, he shook hands with Georgina and 
introduced her to his mother with an air of pride, 
evidently no longer caring to conceal his admiration. 
For no one could see her, so he argued, without 
admitting that he had selected precisely the most 
admirable and suitable wife in the kingdom ; and he 
only wished they were already engaged. Surely if 
they were, his erring fancy would keep to its true 
allegiance ! 

No one at the moment had the faintest recollec- 
tion of the homely stepmother except Mr. Bryant 
himself, and he hoped 'it was no matter.' Georgina's 
figure, style, and manner more than made up for 
any deficiencies in the dear woman. 

But now something occurred, very disturbing to 
one member of this happy family party. Georgina, 
queen-like, leaning out of the dogcart with her hand 
patronisingly on her father's shoulder, while she 
talked familiarly, almost amorously, with Sir 
Vincent, saw another pair of people approaching ; 
evidently another mother and son, for the stout 
VOL. I 13 



194 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

middle-aged woman was leaning on tlie very re- 
spectable young man, who carried her bundle and 
basket, and was talking to her as he led her 
along. 

' What a delightfully funny couple, Vincent ! ' 
said Miss Bryant, and the Christian name was noted 
by the listening parents ; ' I am certain that is your 
protege, the painter.' 

' Alick Eandle,' admitted Vincent, and the whole 
party directed their looks to the newcomers. Mr. 
Bryant, who till now had believed Alick's name to 
be Leach, felt his heart suddenly stop beating as 
he heard the word Eandle and saw the woman — the 
very woman ! And Vincent was saying carelessly, 
' That is his mother whom I told you of. She takes a 
drop too much now and then, and is rather a thorn in 
Alick's side. Ah, she is aiming at you, Mr. Bryant. 
She was inclined to claim acquaintance with you 
rather.' It is not too much to assert that Mr. Bryant 
felt a strong wish for an earthquake at this moment ; 
but being a man of self-control and presence of 
mind, he merely answered calmly and pleasantly — 

' Some old friend of mine ? From my parish 
in London, can it be ? Good evening, Alick. I 
hear your mother thinks she remembers me. 
Where have we met, my good friend ? I shall be 
delighted to renew our acquaintance.' 

It was a most extraordinary position he was 



ILL WEEDS GRO IV APACE 195 

in, and would have been disconcerting to a man of 
firmer fibre. On the one side was his brilliant 
daughter, with her Paris hat and intimacy with the 
peerage, all but engaged too to the young baronet, 
who seemed to Mr. Bryant a greater prince than he 
really was ; on the other, the fat, common woman, 
who took a drop too much sometimes, and was not 
only a near relation, but had helped him to do 
away with Mary Smith. That was the transaction 
which started up involuntarily before his mind at 
sight of the w^oman, for he had had no dealings with 
her on any other occasion. And that was the one 
action of his life which he felt to be for ever un- 
pardonable. Mr. Bryant expected to find himself 
lying in a moment. It really would be impossible 
to own that woman. Further than the lie he did 
not see. But Ann had plenty of mother- wit about 
her of an inverted description ; she saw that Mr. 
Bryant was not for recognition, and lying, as we 
know, presented no difficulty to her. 

' It ain't the same,' she said, addressing Alick ; 
' my Bryant had yellow hair and a snubbed nose.' 
Georgina tittered, and Mr. Bryant took courage. 

'Where did you see him, my friend?' he said. 
' Did you say he was a relative V 

Alick frowned now, expecting the dubious 
brother-in-law to be brought up, and Mr. Bryant 
trembled, but he felt it absolutely necessary to know 



196 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

what the woman had said. Mrs. Leach understood 
him completely. 

' I didn't. Did I, sir ? I never made so bold. 
I said, " Sir Vincent," said I, " I once sat under a man 
named Bryant with a snubbed nose. He went to 
London, but I suppose London is a big town, and if 
there's one parson in it named Bryant there is two 
dozen." I didn't say another word, Sir Vincent and 
Alick ; now did I ?' 

' Not even so much, Mrs. Leach,' said Vincent ; 
' you didn't mention the snubbed nose.' And the 
incident ended. Alick dragged his mother on, and 
Mr. Bryant breathed more freely. He joined in 
the young people's laugh ; but without the most 
distant feeling of amusement. 



CHAPTEE VII 

Oh, how my poor Emma had thought of Georgina, 
who was coming home to be her daughter ! 

She was so long choosing a room for the girl 
that the housemaid got quite impatient ; she took 
the curtains in hand herself — gaudy chintz with large 
pink roses over it ; the new wall-paper having great 
roses too, so nearly the same colour that Emma 
and the housemaid considered them 'a lovely match.' 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 197 

' I declare, it looks quite a bower ! ' said Mrs. Bry- 
ant, admiringly. The cherished daughter must have, 
too, her own little table made of Christmas cards, and 
a scrap-screen also made by herself for a bazaar and 
unsold. The scraps were mounted on Turkey-red, 
and the Christmas cards were finished off with a 
royal blue fringe, neither of which looked particularly 
well beside the rosy curtains ; but Mrs. Bryant did 
not think of that, and only saw the ' lovely pictures.' 
For the walls, there w^ere a few chromo-lithographs 
in gilt frames purloined also from her own bedroom ; 
and finally she exclaimed, ' I think I will give her 
my bird, Jane ! ' with the delight of sudden inspira- 
tion. The white cat followed the rival pet into the 
new, smart room. He had been greatly put out 
by the move from London, and had roamed discon- 
solately about the house, finding no place sufficiently 
comfortable for him, till he observed the eider-down 
on Georgina's bed. Even Mr. Bryant had long 
given up contending with that cat, w^ho was of 
opinion that the establishment belonged to him, and 
that he condescendingly kept five or six persons to 
pet him. Neither Jane nor Mrs. Bryant attempted 
to oust him now from his new position, nor dreamed 
that any one could be unflattered by his favour, 
xlnd then Mrs. Bryant went away to dress for receiv- 
ing her stepdaughter. 

She had pulled down her scanty hair, and 



198 MR. BR Y ant's MISTAKE 

enveloped herself in an old white dressing-jacket, 
when a loud noise and a cry from Georgina's room 
brought her running thither in dismay. Jane had 
been piling up the fire to the great furnace a servant 
naturally makes on a June day, when — this was her 
account — she saw a great nasty 'hear wig' running over 
the ceiling ; so she up with the broom 'andle laying 
there 'andy and struck a great blow at the intruder, 
which fell upon Jack's white 'ead, making him 
swear ' horfuL' Alas ! rather more fell than the 
earwig : down came a great piece of the plaster, 
falling on the new curtains and the white sheets 
and the red eider-down, and powdering over the 
bright new carpet and the table of Christmas cards. 
Jane, too, in her terror, knocked over the iusj, and 
its contents were losing themselves in all directions 
over the uneven floor. The room was a scene of 
dire confusion, over which Jerry, the thrush, sang 
his loudest. 

' Jane ! ' exclaimed Mrs. Bryant, ' I do think you 
are the most aggravating girl I ever saw ! ' 

This conspicuous failure was unbearable. 
Georgina would think she had taken no pains, and 
the little table was quite destroyed. Mrs. Bryant 
began to cry, and Jane went into a passion ; said she 
didn't care a rap for all the Miss Georginas in the 
world, and would leave the house and get a mistress 
who was civil. 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 1 99 

' Jane, Jane/ cried Emma, in an agony, ' she'll 
be here in a minute ! Get a dust-pan and clear 
it up.' 

' Clear it up yourself, ma'am,' said Jane. ' I 
don't wish to aggravate you no further ; ' and she 
flounced out of the room, after giving another need- 
less poke to the unnecessary fire. 

' Cook, cook,' called Mrs. Bryant, ' do come and 
help me ! ' But the cook was in the garden gather- 
ing parsley, and Jane, without relenting, sat down 
to make herself some tea. Poor Emma, her eyes 
streaming with tears and her brow with heat, set to 
work herself; but she had not half done when the 
dogcart drove up to the door, and Georgina and her 
father got down and came in. 

' Welcome, my dearest child, welcome,' said Mr. 
Bryant, and kissed her ; ' we are not quite straight 
yet, you see.' 

' I do see,' said Georgina, looking round with 
some contempt, not lost upon her father. Where 
was Mrs. Bryant ? 

' Emma, Emma, my love ! ' he called. ' Here we 
are ! Georgie has come.' He was a little put out. 
That incident en route had tried him very much. 
' Where is your mistress, Jane ? ' 

' Dunno, I'm sure, sir,' said Jane, with a toss of 
her head. 

' I begin to think Mrs. Bryant is dead, papa,' 



200 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

said Georgina, flippantly. ' You haven't said a word 
about her, and now she has vanished.' 

' Emma/ shouted Mr. Bryant again, ' come down 
at once.' 

She dared not disobey ; besides, she was longing 
to see her dear daughter. Her hands white with 
the fallen plaster, her face red and tear-stained, her 
grizzled hair hanging, and her old morning -dress 
half hidden by the cotton jacket, the poor, self- 
forgetful, eager, tired woman presented herself 
before the fashionable Georgina. She certainly 
was a strange figure. Georgina stared at her for a 
moment, then burst into a fit of hearty laughter. 

So lately had Mr. Bryant disowned his sister-in- 
law, that disowning seemed natural ; before his fine 
daughter he would at that moment have disowned 
his humble wife if he could. Yet he stepped for- 
ward as usual, the dear woman's protector. She 
had fled before the girl's contemptuous laugh, and 
he went after her, kindly, sympathetically, consol- 
ingly. After a time he rejoined his daughter, and 
explaining to her the disaster in her room, took the 
opportunity to deliver what he meant for a very 
severe little sermon. 

'My dearest child,' he said, 'you know, at least 
I hope you know, that we are very plain people, 
and have not had your advantages of education and 
society. You will have to put up with us as we 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 201 

are, and T must insist upon it that you do not fail 
in the respect due to your father and his wife.' 

Georgina made a little grimace. Then she put 
her hands on his arm, and looked up in his face 
archly, and turned him round, so that together they 
faced the mirror. ' I don't think we are plain 
people at all, papa, you and I,' she said, caressingly. 
However, she apologised in a kind of way, and was 
very prettily behaved when at last she kissed her 
stepmother properly, and consented to follow her to 
the apartment so anxiously prepared and now some- 
what shorn of its splendours. 

But she w^as not at all so pretty to Mrs. Bryant 
when out of her father's sight. 

' Dear, what a hot room ! ' she exclaimed, truly 
enough, for the fire was the one really successful 
and triumphant thing ; ' and what a noisy bird ! 
He makes my head split.' 

Then the girl surveyed the room, and noticed all 
the pink roses and the gaudy carpet. Mrs. Bryant 
thought with keen ex]3ectation that now she was 
going to express admiration. IS'ot one word. Geor- 
gina shrugged her shoulders. 

' What is that on my bed ? ' she exclaimed ; ' a 
cat ? Oh, take it away ! There is no creature 1 
dislike so much as a cat.' • 

' I am so sorry, my love,' said Mrs. Bryant, lift- 
ing Jack with great tenderness. 'Your pa is so 



202 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

fond of the cat, he lets him lay anywhere, and we 
take no notice. He's a very good, pleasant cat and 
never has a flea, nor looks at the bird, nor anything.' 
And setting him down on the floor, she opened the 
door for him to make a graceful exit. Naturally 
Mr. Jack made for the soft eider-down again. 
Georgina snatched up a towel and struck the animal 
a smart blow, whereupon he would have scratched 
her if Mrs. Bryant had not courageously interposed. 

' I feel quite agitated,' said Georgina, sinking into 
an arm-chair; ' and the heat of this stuffy room makes 
me faint. You will have to get rid of that cat,' said 
the stepdaughter ; ' Finette will not endure it.' 

' "What is Finette, my love ? ' 

' My dog, of course.' 

' Have you brought a dog, Georgie dear ? I 
hope it is clean and doesn't bark much. Your pa 
is not very partial to dogs.' 

'I suppose you mean you are not,' said the out- 
spoken Georgina, with the laugh which enchanted 
her lovers, but which was disconcerting to a timid 
woman like Emma. 

' But is the dog coming in the luggage, love ? ' 

' My maid is bringing her. Where is my maid's 
room ? ' 

' Oh my, Georgie ! ' exclaimed Mrs. Bryant, ' you 
haven't been and brought a maid surely ! We can't 
have a maid. There is no place for her to sleep, and 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 203 

tliey do quarrel with the other servants so. Jane is 
very easy upset as it is.' 

' Eeally ? And is Jane a fixture ? Of course I 
must have a maid. I can't do my hair myself. 
I'll run down and speak to papa about it.' 

' Oh no, my love, please don't do that. I will 
manage it somehow, if you must have her. But 
would it do if I waited on you myself ? I'll unpin 
your hair for you now, if you will let me.' 

' No, thank you,' said Georgma, in a tone of dis- 
gust, and glancing at her stepmother's tasteless cap 
and crrizzled chic^non. 

' It will be very hard to feel respect for that 
woman,' thought Georgina. ' Dear me ! how ever 
did my handsome, delightful papa come to marry 
such a woman as that ? "Who is my papa ? There 
is a pleasing vagueness about his early history. I 
had better talk of my mother's relations as much as 
I can. I declare that woman is enough to turn 
Vincent against me. How on earth am I to get rid 
of her?' 

For the present there was truce. The maid was 
accommodated with the spare room (until after a 
few days she was dismissed by Mr. Bryant for 
insolence to his wife), Jack was turned into the 
stable lest he should frighten Finette, and Georgina, 
dressed in satin, came down to dinner with Mr. and 
]\Irs. Bryant, who were in their morning clothes, and 



204 MR. Bryant's mistake 

indeed were going to church. The arrangement 
suited Miss Bryant, who felt pretty sure her lover 
would look in, and who wanted to give him her 
opinion of her stepmother. Meanwhile she behaved 
very nicely to that lady, and flirted most persever- 
ingly and successfully with her papa. 

But that laugh of Georgina's upon entering had 
left its effect. Mrs. Bryant indeed, humble, un- 
dignified, and prompt to forgive, partially forgot it ; 
her husband, never. He had defended his wife and 
reproved the girl ; but for all that, victory lay with 
Georgina. Mr. Bryant did not in his heart forgive 
Emma's blundering welcome ; he did forgive Georgina 
her laugh. Undoubtedly, she was superior in a 
hundred ways to poor, dear Emma. She was a 
magnificent creature. How good of her to be so 
pleasant to her dull, old, parsonical parents ! And 
what credit would accrue to the new vicar of Ever- 
well for being the father of the loveliest girl in the 
county ! Alas for Mr. Bryant ! Yesterday the 
good of his parishioners had been his chief desire. 
His head was full of sermons, and lectures, and 
temperance meetings, and sacraments ; and how 
even Sir Vincent was showing signs of grace, and 
Alick Leach was a saint from whom he might learn 
himself Georgina with her French fashions had 
sown a whole crop of new and worldly ideas. 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 205 



CHAPTEE VIII 

Vincent had turned in at the vicarage almost every 
evening since the arrival of the new clergyman. 
Going thither was virtuous, for it prevented his 
loitering about in the glen where he had found 
sweet Nannie in tears ; it was pleasant also, for 
going and coming he had to cross the said glen, and 
always with an undefined hope that she might be 
at the crossing. Lady Katharine was amused to find 
her son required a little urging to go to the vicarage 
to-night. However, he went. It was the right 
thing to do, for did he not intend to marry Georgina ? 
He did, and for two reasons : first, he had arranged 
with himself to do so, and Vincent had a strong 
will; secondly, he regarded Georgina as a bulwark 
of defence against Nannie. For reason told him 
that nothing could be more desirable and nothing 
more probable than that the fashionable lady should 
in every way eclipse the country maid ; in Georgina's 
society Nannie would be forgotten. Vincent was 
desperately alarmed about himself at present, like 
a man convinced that he has a mortal disease. 
One only specific for his complaint presented itself, 
and he clutched at it greedily. It was Georgina. 
He was ready to marry her to-morrow if she could 



2o6 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

cure him of this mad passion for which change of 
air had effected nothing whatever. 

Georgina beckoned him to a seat at her side, 
and she lounged in a low chair, displaying a pretty 
foot, and pulling Finette's ears, with a languishing 
air of ' Come woo me ! come woo me ! ' while all the 
time she was studying her suitor closely, and coming 
to a few conclusions about him, not altogether remote 
from the truth. For though presuming, Georgina 
was clever; and she soon perceived that Vincent had 
changed. He had come this evening not to make love 
but to criticise ; he was entertained perhaps, but his 
pulse was unfluttered, his heart was at leisure. He 
would need a little persistent courting, she suspected, 
before she got him up to the mark. Well, no matter ; 
it was only a matter of time, for Georgina knew 
herself an adept at the art of courtship. For 
to-night — she was not especially successful. Vincent 
recognised the fact witli a sigh ; yet gladly too. He 
had been jealous for Nannie ! 

' Tell me,' said Georgina, ' what made you bring 
papa here ? ' 

' I wanted a good parson,' said Vincent ; not at 
all what she had meant him to say. 

'Fancy you caring about parsons!' cried Georgina, 
clapping her hands. 

' Why not ? These people here seemed in want 
of some theology, or whatever it is.' 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 207 

' I haven't oone in for it. And I don't believe 

o 

you have either, sir.' 

' Oh, I suppose one acquires some sort of practical 
theology unconsciously, enough to keep one going ; 
some sense of higher powers to be reverenced, and 
of a standard of decency. I should hope your 
father would hammer that much into the heads of 
the people here, for I begin to think, without it 
men are only a rather uninteresting sort of brute.' 

' You remind me of Lord Cookham,' said Georgina. 
Vincent coloured. 

* I suppose one turns that sort of thing over in 
one's mind now and then,' he said. ' I imagine 
definite ideas on those points pertain in some way 
to one's gentility.' 

' Gentility. What a w^ord ! It would do for 
Mrs. Bryant.' Georgina was silent for a moment. 
She was anxious to inform her lover that she 
disapproved of her stepmother ; it was obvious that 
he must do so. ' I feel like a little girl in papa's 
Sunday school ! ' cried Georgina. ' Please, teacher, 
what do you mean by gentility ? ' Vincent was not 
going to be accused a second time of resembling 
Lord Cookham, and held his peace. 

' I was hoping,' said Georgina, sarcastically, 
' that you would favour me with some charitable 
definition, wide enough to embrace even my step- 
mother.' And she laus^hed. Vincent was silent. 



2o8 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

and did not think the remark in the best taste. 
It was the second little jar. 

' You are not amusing/ said Georgina with a 
graceful yawn. 'You stayed away from church to 
come to see me, but I didn't stay away to be preached 
at by you. Tell me something more interesting.' 

' What shall I tell you ? ' said Vincent, stupidly ; 
and she stamped her foot with vexation. 

' Oh, more about yourself, sir ; or your home, 
or your friends. By the way, who was that very 
pretty girl who ran out of the glen and kissed the 
great fat woman after she had tried to claim papa's 
acquaintance ? ' Vincent felt annoyed all over, and 
no longer in the least inclined to talk to Georgina. 

' I shouldn't have thought you near enough to 
know if she were pretty or ugly,' he said, evasively. 
Georgina laughed. She knew a discussion of female 
beauty was an useful topic with an admirer. 

' I saw she was pretty chiefly by the expression in 
your eyes, my friend, as you watched her. Perhaps 
you don't know what a tell-tale countenance you have?' 

' Miss Bryant ' began Vincent, strongly 

tempted to say something rude. 

That unlucky allusion to Nannie destroyed the 
work of Georgina's whole evening. It irritated him 
out of all sense of his companion's attractions. He 
was like a person with a raw place, a touch to which 
sets every nerve quivering. 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 209 



CHAPTEE IX 

The church was very empty, and Mr. Bryant cut 
his discourse short, but made it very plain and 
pointed, as he well knew how. Approbation was 
written on every line of Alick's eager, sharp-featured 
face. He seemed stationed there to keep the preacher 
up to the mark ; and it was well, or Mr. Bryant's 
thoughts would certainly have wandered ; for there 
was that terrible woman, Ann, sitting before him 
with a curious delighted expression, and every now 
and then a glance at the unconscious Emma, w^hich 
sent a cold shudder down Mr. Bryant's back. "When 
he had pronounced the blessing, he stepped, still in 
his surplice, to his wife's side, and bade her go home 
at once in charge of the sexton. Then he whispered 
to Mrs. Leach that he would follow her to her house 
and speak to her now, if she could give him ten 
minutes in private. Ann agreed, and winked at him 
with a delightful sense of intrigue. Then he talked 
pleasantly for a few minutes to Alick, who was 
going to hold a prayer meeting and who had a girl 
with him, one of his sisters probably, to wdiom Mr. 
Bryant paid no attention whatever. 

' Where was the great congregation you promised 
me, Alick ? ' said the clergyman, in his genial way. 

VOL. I 14 



210 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

' Folk who've been toiling won't walk two and 
a half miles of an evening, sir, without there's an 
awful sense of starvation. That hasn't come to a 
many of them yet. But if you would join us on 
the beach, sir ' 

' On the beach ? What ! do you meet there in 
the rain ? ' 

' It do seem a damping sort of thing on prayers, 
sir,' said Alick, regretfully. 

' Take your flock into the new schoolhouse,' said 
Mr. Bryant ; ' don't wait for me, but I may perhaps 
look in presently.' 

' We have been praying for a good minister, sir,' 
said Alick, ' and I'm thinking our prayers have been 
answered.' 

' God grant it may prove so, my man,' said Mr. 
Bryant, with fervour, for somehow he w^as not 
feeling a particularly good minister to-night. 

At last the coast was clear, and Mr. Bryant 
made his despondent way to Mrs. Leach. 

What was he going to say ? He really did not 
know. He wa^ going to see how the land lay, and 
to come to some understanding with her. If she 
had only turned up a day or tw^o sooner, before 
Georgina had appeared on the scene ; if he had not 
met her for the first time in public ; if she were not 
that devout man Alick's mother ; if he and she 
had not that ignoble secret between them about 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 211 

Mary Smith ■ Good heavens, was it possible 

that that early, long dead and buried and forgotten 
trouble was going to make its presence felt again ? 
And just now when such fair winds were filling his 
sails, and he had believed himself embarked on so 
prosperous a voyage ! It was horrible to think of 

' And how is my poor dear Emma ? ' asked Mrs. 
Leach. ' I see she has fallen into flesh since I saw 
her, and is a good full of a doorway like myself 

' Look here now,' said the clergyman, abruptly, 
' how do you come to be here ? ' 

' It's course of nature,' replied Ann, rubbing her 
hands with appreciation of the joke, ' seeing I was 
bred here and wed here, and have put two husbands 
into the tombs here. How do you come to be 
here, that's the thing ? ' 

Mr. Bryant thought it decent to ask for the 
good folk at Faverton Farm, and Ann was voluble 
about them; but, true to her character of secret 
woman, she refrained from mentioning that they 
had left their native place. 

'We have, partly by accident, cut all connec- 
tion with the farm,' said Mr. Bryant. ' Our walks in 
life are different, and I cannot endure harrowing 
memories for my dear wife.' After a while, he 
ventured to ask if Ann was going to bring ' this 
matter forward.' She replied that she was a very 
truthful woman, and didn't see her way to conceahng 



212 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

it. Mr. Bryant hesitated, and then she said im- 
pressively — 

' I'm a poor struggling widow, Mr. Bryant, with 
my family to think of and a dreadful delicate son, — 
my poor Alick, sir, who has always one head in 
the grave ; and the others are young and brought 
up too respectable for hard work. I have a deal of 
anxiety.' 

' Oh well, perhaps I can help you,' said Mr. 
Bryant ; ' I shall be very glad to do so. But listen 
now.' Mrs. Leach sat down just in front of him, 
spread her hands on her knees, and looked up in 
his face with an air of profound attention. She 
was in every way disgusting to Mr. Bryant. He 
tried to explain what a great man he was — an 
awkward sort of thing to say ; and about his lady 
daughter, who had mixed in the highest society, and 
was on the eve of contracting a brilliant marriage. 

' Ay, marrying is good,' said Ann ; ' I always tell 
the lasses so. I wouldn't like to hinder the pre.tty 
dear ! ' 

* And what is of more importance, Ann — here I 
do expect you to understand my meaning — is my 
dear, ill-treated wife's unfortunate early history. I 
am not exaggerating when I say that in our position, 
if it became known, it would ruin her. That is why 
I have thought it advisable to sever all connection 
with Emma's relations.' 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 213 

' And there was the child too/ said Mrs. Leach 
reflectively, 

' Good gracious, yes ! Do you suppose I have 
forgotten it ? ' said the tortured man, rising and walk- 
ing about, feeling sick with regret and worry. 

' Ann,' he said seriously, ' could anything induce 
you to leave Everwell ? ' 

' To go where, sir ? ' asked Mrs. Leach eagerly. 

'Wherever you please. To London, Cornwall, 
New Zealand. I would arrange it all for you.' 

' And pay my way ? ' 

*Yes, I w^ould. Under certain conditions.' 

' You might give me the money,' suggested Ann ; 
' it's a mighty convenient thing, especially when it 
ain't mentioned to Alick, who always steals it for 
missionaries. And you could stay here and I could 
stay here, and we'd never say a word of having seen 
each other afore. I'm a great girl for keeping 
secrets. Have I ever told one of your secrets, 
even without a consideration for keeping them ? ' 

' I'm sure I hope you have not,' said Mr. Bryant. 
' No, Ann, that sort of plot is not to be thought of. 
It is odious, unworthy, dangerous. No, no. Emigra- 
tion is best — quite the best thing for you , and all 
your family.' 

' No, sir,' said Ann, ' I couldn't do. nowhere away 
from Everwell. Law now, you don't understand it ; 
why, if I was cast adrift without my Alick and the 



214 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

girl he's meaning to get married to, I shouldn't 
wonder if I got a liking for a taste of drink some- 
times. I shouldn't indeed.' 

'My good woman/ said Mr. Bryant, eagerly, 
' you would be far better off in some other place. 
Emigration is the great remedy for poverty, and for 
all the temptations which poverty brings. Think it 
over. Don't be alarmed by difficulties. I have helped 
scores of people to emigrate, and my assistance to 
you of course would be material. Think it over.' 

He did not despair of persuading her to go. At 
any rate he refused consent to her suggestion ; that is 
as to putting it into practice for a permanence. He did 
buy her silence for a few days by a present to-night. 

It was a most detestable situation for a clergy- 
man and a gentleman. But surely it was necessary ? 
If she were allowed to talk, she would most certainly 
tell all : that Emma, at whom Georgina and others 
already looked askance, was sister-in-law to this 
vulgar, greasy, ignorant tippler ; that he himself was 
the son of a grocer ; that Emma was the mother 
of a nameless child ; and that he and the greasy 
tippler between them had palmed the baby off on 
somebody else. The last fact he could not bear to 
confess even to himself To know that he was 
living in the same place with a person who knew of 
it was unendurable. 

Ann must go ; and till she went, to buy her 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 215 

silence was mere matter of necessity. He had no 
other resource. 

The interview, so terribly agitating to Mr. 
Bryant, had only lasted twenty minutes, and when 
he left the house, which was nearly opposite the new 
schoolhouse, Alick had not long collected his flock 
from the beach and the street, and begun his 
meeting. As he had entered the temple he had 
happened to look in at his mother's window, and had 
seen, to his no small surprise, that the clergyman 
was there : a fact which set him thinking. 



CHAPTEE X 

Whex Mr. Bryant came out he ran up against Sir 
Vincent, and started as if caught in some wrong 
action. It was some minutes before he convinced 
himself that his young friend saw nothing strange 
in his presence in the street at this hour. Anxious 
to seem on duty bent, he proposed that they should 
both slip unseen into the schoolhouse through the 
classroom, and learn for themselves how and what 
Alick taught the people. Vincent was rather 
curious on the subject himself, and agreed. The 
clergyman wanted time to collect his thoughts, to 
consider what he had done and what he was going 
to do. He had no intention of listening to the 



2i6 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

preaching, especially from the lips of the son of his 
enemy. Yet after a few minutes he did listen, and 
so did Vincent. As I have said before, no one found 
it easy to be ten minutes in Alick's presence without 
watching and hearing him. 

There were about thirty persons assembled ; two 
or three fishermen and one lad recovering from 
an accident, and unable to take his place in 
the boats. He, by the way, attributed his cure 
vociferously to Alick Eandle's prayer. The rest 
were chiefly women, fairly well-to-do, from the most 
respectable shopkeeping people of the place. Dr. 
Verrill also was present with his pipe of home- 
grown tobacco. Alick was addressing this little 
company, all of whom were listening with keen 
attention, and occasionally joining in. 

' Sir,' said Alick, addressing the doctor, ' I'm a 
specimen of those folk. They are my brothers and 
sisters. Life for a working man is a constant 
struggle not to slip down among them. Some of us 
does it every day.' 

' Ay, ay,' grumbled one old man, ' according to 
you we are all going straight to the devil. You want 
to start the world afresh, you do.' Alick caught at 
the word. 

' There's only one way of starting the world 
afresh : by bringing it back to God. We all 
want it, rich and poor alike, clean and unclean. 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 217 

Two men 11 never be brothers till they are 
both sons of God.' Vincent glanced at his 
companion, who smiled and nodded, but had not 
begun to listen yet. So far Alick's countenance and 
voice were more impressive than what he said. Still 
every one wanted to hear him out. 'Do you know 
wdiat Christ said to the rich man ?' continued the 
speaker, evidently feeling himself addressing the 
wealthy part of the community, though unaw^are of 
his two gentleman hearers ; ' the command's plain 
enough, and if we don't do it, it's because w^e have 
no feeling for Christ. " Sell all that thou hast and 
give to the poor, and come and follow me.'" 

' I ain't a-going to do that ! ' called out the miserly 
old lady who kept the bakery. Alick fixed his melan- 
choly eyes on her as he continued vehemently — 

' I tell you, you have no feeling for Christ ; no 
sense of sin, no hatred of the world, the flesh, and 
the devil. You are a willing slave. That kind 
goeth not forth but by prayer and fasting. Oh,' he 
cried, joining his hands and raising them stiffly 
above his head, ' you may be safe for this world with 
your education and your civil w^ays and your natural 
goodness, but it's a broken staff to lean upon even 
here; but there, tlurc — if you have no better stay, 
you will be cast out eternally and will fall headlong 
into utter destruction.' A cry from the old baker 
woman was quite sufficiently startling. There was 



2 1 S MR. BR YANT S MISTAKE 

a pause, during which Alick stood with his hands 
crossed on his chest, and his eyes blazing as they 
gazed upward. ' May God in His mercy enlighten 
you,' he cried at length. ' Look here, friends ; 
two years ago I was walking straight down into 
the pit, and then there came a day when God 
spoke to me as He spoke to Adam, coming to him 
in the cool of the evening and saying, " Man, where 
are thou ? What doest thou here ? " He says 
it to me again to-night. He says it now. Here. 
To every one in this house, which we have built for 
His presence. Where He is present. Man, what 
doest thou here ? Man, what doest thou here ? How 
many of us have an answer ready for that question ? 
. . .' Presently he resumed : ' Three days I lay 
under conviction, crying to Him for mercy. I was 
heartsick. I had visions of hell and of Satan, and of 
the darkness and the horror outside of God's presence. 
Then the day dawned, and the day-star arose in my 
heart. Oh the bliss and the light and the glory 
of that dawn 1 It showed me heaven ; and since 
then my heart has been sick still, but with desire 
for the King in His beauty, — for the land that is 
very far off. Some others of you have felt it. I 
would have you all feel it. My God, I would have 
you all feel it. My God, my God, it cuts me 
through the heart to think there is one in this 
room, burdened and sin stained, with wings that 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 219 

cannot fly and a soul that cannot rise ; tempted, 
assailed, vanquished by the Evil One, because he 
will not turn to Thee for strength, and wisdom, and 
sevenfold might. That any day, to-morrow it may 
be, to-night — oh my God, to-night ! he may die and 
sink into a grave eternal and without a hope ; — 
when he might have risen with Christ to sit at Thy 
right hand in the heavenly places ; where there is 
light for evermore, and lo ! a great multitude which 
no man can number; of all nations and kindred, 
and people and tongues ; which stand before the 
throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes 
and palms in their hands.' 

The words dropped from Alick with the cadence 
of loftiest melody. His singular voice and the 
judgment in his punctuation and emphasis gave at 
once the full sense and the full music of which the 
words were capable, and stirred with strange and 
unwonted sympathy the hearts of his hearers. He 
went on, losing his argument in the fascination of 
the triumphant poetry ; " They shall hunger no more, 
neither thirst any more ; neither shall the sun 
light on them, nor any heat. And the gates shall 
not be shut at all by day : for there shall be no 
night there; and they need no candle, neither 
light of the sun ; for the Lord God giveth them 
lisjht ! And his servants shall serve him !" said 
Alick, with the agonising cry of one who is trying 



220 MR, BRYANT S MISTAKE 

to serve and making frequent failure ; ' " and tliey 
shall see his face ; and his name shall be in their 

foreheads." But ' there was a long pause of 

shuddering expectation — 'hid — "there shall in nowise 
enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatso- 
ever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie. And 
the time is at hand," ' cried the preacher in a slow 
distinct tone of horror, ' when " he that is unjust, 
shall be unjust still : and he that is filthy, shall be 
filthy STILL : and he that is holy shall be holy still. 
And, behold. He cometh quickly ; and His reward is 
with Him to give unto every man according as his 
work shall be."' 

The thrilling voice ceased, and for a time there 
was silence, every eye fixed upon Alick with a 
breathless expectation and resignation to the spell 
he had woven round their spirits. It was the 
genius of the actor, not the genius of the divine ; 
but who would perceive that at such a moment ? 
Alick himself would never perceive it. He still 
stood with his arms crossed and his eyes raised to 
heaven, and burning with what seemed celestial fire. 
He moved a little and altered the direction of his 
gaze to his hearers, through whom passed a per- 
ceptible shudder. 

And presently, as if the silence and the relentless 
pressure on their souls had become unbearable, one 
of the occupants of the benches, the maimed young 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 221 

fisherman aforementioned, fell on his knees and 
burst into a low-toned ejaculatory confession of his 
sins, and supplication for admittance into that 
mystic city which Alick, the prophet, saw ; and a 
sob ran through the women, as all heads were bent, 
and fervent Amens added weight to the petition of 
the spokesman. After which there was more pray- 
ing from various people, and other demonstrations 
which made Vincent at any rate uncomfortable. 
For the physical excitement, which was not without 
its picturesqueness in Alick Handle's artist nature, 
became grotesque in Samuel Dykes and his other 
followers. Probably Nannie thought so too. 
Vincent had discovered her in the throng watching 
her cousin uneasily, and obviously feeling herself 
•responsible for him, the colour coming and going in 
her cheek, and her spirit evidently not joining in 
the excited supplications. 

Alick terminated the proceedings at last with 
some abruptness, as if unable to bear the agitation 
longer ; and a general sigh, perhaps of relief, perhaps 
of disappointment, at the conclusion of the meeting, 
rose from the bent heads. After a short silence, 
Mr. Bryant, who, whatever his secret emotions, 
invariably preserved his cheerful and dignified 
demeanour, stepped from his concealment, shook 
hands with the retiring company, and dismissed 
them, for the most part in tears ; while Alick sat 



222 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

shivering in a chair trying to recover himself after 
so much nervous exhaustion, and no longer attending 
to anything. 

But a rough young woman now made her ap- 
pearance from the street, with bare arms akimbo, 
and a coarse face pale with fatigue and anxiety. 
'Alick Handle, yo are wanted, man,' she said, 
pushing forward to the almost prostrated missionary, 
while the retiring crowd paused to watch this new 
manifestation ; ' mother's down with the faver, and 
shey waunt bey contant withoat yo com now and 
spake to God with her, for the doctor has given her 
oop and shey's mortal afraid to die, and it's only 
God Almighty can save her now.' 

Alick promised, and Mr. Bryant again waved his 
hand, and induced the people to go. But the poor 
prophet still crouched quivering in his chair, clutch- 
ing its arms convulsively, while his dull eyes gazed 
vacantly before him. Nannie had crossed the room, 
and now stood beside her cousin, smiling at him, 
and rubbing his cold trembling hands. 

Then Dr. Verrill was seen to advance to the 
lamp, and take two little phials and a graduated 
glass from his pocket. He carefully poured out a 
mixture, shook the glass several times, tasted the 
contents, and advanced on tiptoe behind Alick, mak- 
ing a sign to Nannie not to speak. When he had 
got very close, he paused for a moment with his 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 223 

head on one side, listening to the gasping breath. 
Then very suddenly, and with a loud and alarming 
snort, he poured the preparation down the back of 
the prophet's neck, and went away without await- 
ing the result. 

Alick sat up instantly with apparent restoration 
of his strength, and much evident annoyance. But 
Nannie's sunny smile beamed forth, and involun- 
tarily she glanced at the astounded Sir Vincent, and 
meeting his eye they both went into the heartiest 
fit of laughter, no doubt a relief after the tension 
and solemnity of the last hour. 



CHAPTEE XI 

No one could have suspected Mr. Bryant of any 
oppression to his spirits. But upon entering the 
house he obeyed the Scriptural injunction ; he went 
into his chamber and shut to the door with the 
publican's petition on his lips, ' God be merciful to 
me a sinner.' The rich, wild voice of the village 
prophet was ringing in his ears, and calling liim also 
to repentance and confession. He still heard Alick 
repeating, ' He that is unjust shall be unjust still,' 
now with a wail of sorrow, now with the trumpet 
tones of heavenly wrath. Mr. Bryant was no 



224 MR. Bryant's mistake 

hypocrite ; not Alick himself had a more thorough 
belief in the Bible plan of salvation, more conviction 
of its urgency, more desire for the welfare of his 
own soul and the souls of those around him. And 
yet — he had bribed his sister-in-law that very even- 
ing to lie for him, and it was not the first time that 
he and she had plotted together to deceive. 

' For my poor Emma's sake,' said Mr. Bryant ; 
' but oh my God, of Thy mercy's sake, lead me not 
into temptation now.' He was most entirely in 
earnest ; only he intended his petition to be granted 
in a particular way ; he intended Ann Handle to be 
got out of Everwell. That would make everything 
easy, and could not, he thought, do harm to any 
one. 

The next day Alick came to see him. Mr. 
Bryant trembled in his soul. He felt afraid of 
Alick. But no one could have guessed it. He 
talked kindly and patronisingly of the prayer-meet- 
ing, the sick woman, Alick's influence over the 
people and consequent responsibility. Alick, who 
was essentially meek and was astonished and half 
alarmed by his own success, was very glad to be in- 
structed. He took out his well-worn Bible and 
exposed many of his ditficulties, asked many ex- 
planations, admitted sadly more than one error. 

' Come up whenever you like, Alick,' said Mr. 
Bryant, really interested in the student. ' I shall 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 225 

always be ready to look over a chapter with 
you.' 

' Thank you heartily, sir,' said Alick. But he 
stopped abruptly in the middle of a sentence and 
gazed at his pastor with those eloquent eyes of his 
before which Mr. Bryant quailed. For there had 
suddenly struck the young man, and that not for the 
first time, a suspicion that he had seen this clergyman 
before. Nonsense! A child's recollection — what 
was it ? He would never have entertained it had 
not his mother put the idea of the mysterious uncle 
into his head ! And then, not listening as the 
other went on talking rather hurriedly about pre- 
destination, he began to wonder what Mr. Bryant 
had had to say to Mrs. Leach last evening after 
church. 

' You never see mother afore yesterday, sir, did 
you ? ' asked Alick, abruptly. 

' What! has she been saying that again ?' smiled 
Mr. Bryant in his pleasant way, but with an instan- 
taneous conviction that Ann had already been false 
to the compact. 

' No, she hasn't said no more about it. Did you 
ever know her of old, sir ? ' demanded Alick. 

The attack was sudden, and Mr. Bryant was 
taken at unawares. He was half awed by Alick, 
and Common- sense whispered, ' You disowned the 
woman yesterday in this uncompromising man's 

VOL. I 15 



226 MR. Bryant's mistake 

hearing : he will despise you, if you confess 
now.' 

' Your mother is an entire stranger to me/ said 
Mr. Bryant ; ' didn't you hear me say so yesterday ? ' 

During the whole of the following week it seemed 
to the clergyman that he was living two distinct and 
all but incompatible lives ; that, as in some hideous 
nightmare, he was tossed dangerously from one 
to the other with imminent risk of catastrophe. 
When Alick had left him he had learned that the 
Sandfords, distant relatives of Georgina's Baroness, 
had come to call, and he hurried to the drawing- 
room to support his wife. Mrs. Bryant was of course 
terrified; but her husband and stepdaughter atoned 
for her deficiencies. Georgina took the measure 
of these people at once : the ponderous father and 
mother, well born but insular, provincial, and stupid ; 
the pert, dressy daughter, older than Georgina, but 
unformed and obviously afraid of the half- foreign 
beauty. They amused Miss Bryant immensely. 
She put on her most fashionable manner and talked 
of things quite beyond the ken of poor Miss Gerty. 
Her charming condescension to the country folk was 
such that no one could remember she was the mere 
daughter of the vicarage. Her whole conversation 
and manner suggested the Great House. She called 
Sir Vincent by his Christian name, and mentioned 
some fancy of his in a matter of sweetmeats, which 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 227 

betokened great intimacy. Georgina knew perfectly 
well that her position in the neighbouring society 
was secured, and that there would be speculation as 
to her engagement to Sir Vincent. With what delight 
did her proud father watch her, guessing what the 
visitors — important people in his eyes — would think! 

When they were gone Georgina sat on a foot- 
stool by his side, stirring his tea for him and laugh- 
ing up in his face. ' Mamma dear,' said she, and 
both Mr. Bryant and his wife beamed on her as she 
said the filial word, ' I am going to make you a new 
cap. And you kind, dear papa, you'll let me have 
a grand piano, won't you ? And this table mustn't 
be here. It is in the way. I don't like the red 
carpet and the green curtains. I suppose it is only 
a temporary arrangement ? ' 

' Oh yes, only temporary,' said the clergyman, to 
his wife's astonishment and dismay. But how nice 
Georgie had spoken to her ! She was going to be 
her daughter after all ! Wlien they were alone 
Mrs. Bryant took courage to address her. 

* My dear,' said the simple woman, ' I have a 
terrible quantity of sewing to do. I wonder now 
do you understand a sewing machine ? ' 

' I ? ' said Georgina, ' certainly not. I have 
never had occasion to do needlework.' 

' But, my dear, instead of making me a cap ' 

began Mrs. Bryant, timidly. 



228 MR. BR YANT S MISTAKE 

' I am going to make you a new cap/ said 
Georgina, calmly, ' because the one you are wearing 
is not fit to be seen. I am not going to do any 
unnecessary work. You have made difficulties about 
my maid, Mrs. Bryant ; it will prevent future mis- 
understandings if I tell you at once, I am not going 
to act as lady's maid to you.' Mrs. Bryant was 
thunderstruck. Georgina had been so pleasant to 
her all day in her father's presence ! 

' Bless me, Georgie,' she whimpered, ' what have 
I done that you should speak to me in that 
fashion ? ' 

' What fashion ? By the way, the next time 
visitors come, I hope you will allow me to pour out 
the tea. / have some notion how it ought to be 
done.' 

' I shall tell your pa how rude you are,' said 
Mrs. Bryant ; much the sort of threat she would 
make to Jane. 

'Do. Papa will advise you to learn the right 
way of pouring tea ; ' which was exactly what 
happened. Mr. Bryant patted his daughter's cheek 
— she brought the matter forward herself — said he 
hoped she would give him also lessons in manners, 
and insisted on treating the whole affair as a joke. 
But this time he omitted privately to caution 
Georgina against hurting her stepmother's feelings, 
and he felt greatly vexed with Emma for having 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 229 

committed herself in the administration of tea to 
Mrs. Sandford. 

That was one of his lives, centering round 
Georgina ; two days after he was again roughly 
tossed into the other, which had for its centre the 
dead child Mary Smith. 

He was going from house to house introducing 
himself to his parishioners, and wherever he went 
he was leaving a good impression. He had pockets 
full of lollipops and threepenny bits for the child- 
ren, tobacco for the men, and genial words of affec- 
tionate advice for everybody. Alick had successfully 
prepared his way. The only thing was, and he re- 
cognised a certain comicality in the fact, that as yet 
he was Alick's adjutant, not Alick his. 

' Perhaps these people will not be quite so full 
of Alick,' he said to himself, referring to his note- 
book as he paused outside the door of the Home 
Farm ; ' they are newcomers, but I see Leicester has 
not told me their name.' He rang the bell, and 
was admitted by a smart and handsome young lady, 
who sent for her father, and talked affably about the 
weather and the state of affairs in Egypt. Mr. Bryant 
was trying gracefully to discover the name of the 
family when who should enter from the garden but 
Alick Eandle himself — and with him the sunny-faced 
girl who had attended him at the prayer meeting. 
At the same moment a gruff voice was heard outside — 



230 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

' Patty, woman, Joe tells me the minister has 
come. Where have they put um and what does he 
want with me ? Why couldn't he step down the 
meadow without interrupting my woork, if he can 
leave hisn so easy ? ' 

Alick noticed that Mr. Bryant turned pale, and 
even made a movement to escape ; but the farmer 
and his eldest daughter were already in the room. 

' Where is the parson ? ' said Benjamin Eandle ; 
' Nan says his name is Bryant. Let me look at 
him ? Ay, he's Bryant sure enough.' 

The two men stared at each other helplessly, 
and all the young people stared at them. Alick 
alone had the clue to the scene, and overwhelming 
despair filled his soul. The man who had come to 
teach him holiness and to show Christ to the be- 
nighted children of Ever well was just a common liar ! 

The farmer turned all the lads and lasses out of 
the room, bidding his trusty Patty to remain within 
call ; then shut the door and threw his huge bulk 
upon a settle. 

* Who the devil has played us this trick ? ' he 
said, savagely. 

' You have no conception of the awkward position 
your unexpected presence places me in,' groaned 
poor Mr. Bryant. 

'Ay, it's d — d awkward to be confronted by 
unrespectable relations,' said the farmer ; ' so you've 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 231 

brought my sister in my way again, have 
you ? ' 

* That woman Ann ' began Mr. Bryant. 

'Ay, ay, if I'd known the ticket she was,' Mr. 

Handle agreed, ' I'd have kept out of her neighbour- 
hood too. I was took in by that psalm-singing son 
of hers, and that red girl of mine, who's vulgar 
minded and put up with dirt and drink to get her 
fling away from us. I'm going to pay her out by 
marrying her to the Methody, and if she gets 
him into trouble, I'll wash my hands of it.' Mr. 
Bryant did not follow all this. 

' I suppose Sir Vincent knows that woman Ann 
is related to you ? ' he interrupted. 

* Why in coorse he does. He's a rare 'un ; not 
much like that easy old father of his. This chap 
knows every mother's son in Everwell (and the lasses 
too, more nor he ought, I expect) ; and what they 
have for dinner, and how many pound every man's 
arm can lift. Why, he'll talk to you as sensible of 
potatoes as if he'd been dropping 'em all his life. 
" Don't you leave that upland to the west pasture 
another year," says he to me yesterday; "the constitoo- 
tion of that bit of land will make mangel if you'll 
give it — " I forget the name of the stuff; some of your 
foreign chemicals. How's he learnt all that, tell 
me now ? But I'll bet you two and sixpence he's 
light. I haven't caught him out in a mistake yet. 



232 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

And you'd think he was all for horses and pleasure 
boats.' 

Mr. Bryant plunged into an explanation of the 
blunder he had made. He described the encounter 
on the road with Ann reeling drunk, which was an 
exaggeration ; ' I really hadn't the face to own her 
then/ said Mr. Bryant ; and Eandle laughed and 
slapped his knee. 

' Just like you, Ned 1 Just like you ! ' he said. 

' Oh well, be reasonable,' resumed the clergyman, 
offended ; ' I thought of explaining privately to Sir 
Vincent.' 

' I bet you didn't,' said the farmer ; ' you thought 
of explaining privately to Ann.' 

It was certainly humiliating to Mr. Bryant, but 
he had to confess that this was precisely what he 
had done. The whole tone of the conversation was 
offensive to the clergyman, who had grown used to 
soft-toned admiration from bishops and baronets. 

' I'd a deal rather do with you,' said Eandle, ' if 
you were a natural kind of chap who kep a grocery 
like your father. You've perked yourself up, and 
that precious wife of yours, and got mixed with the 
gentry in a way I can't abide ; and I'd a deal 
sooner you kep out of my light. You'll come 
to grief some day, and I don't want to have folk 
saying, " Them pair of humbugs is your brother and 
sister, Ben Eandle." They'll be asking me if I'm 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 2ZZ 

an honest man next.' In these unpleasant observa- 
tions Mr. Bryant saw a glimmer of hope. 

'Indeed, Ben, we both had reasons for being 
best separate. In my dear wife's interest ' 

' In your dear wife's interest and for the sake of 
shaking you off my back, I kept that red-haired 
brat,' interposed the farmer ; ' I'm a man of deeds, 
not words. But deeds ain't good for nothing, if 
you come putting Emma back in my pocket when I 
thought I'd done with her.' 

' Good heavens, what brat ? ' asked Mr. Bryant, 
turning cold. 

' Her,' said the farmer, pointing with his thumb to 
the garden, ' who's out kissing the humpy. She's ready 
to kiss any one with hair on his face. It's in her blood.' 

' What do you mean ? What girl is that with Alick ? ' 

' Nannie, they call her ; mine and Sarah's girl, 
Xannie. It's my belief she wasn't never christened 
Nannie. It's my belief, Ned Bryant, that woman 
Ann buried the wrong un, and it's you ought to 
have been chargeable for the red hair, as you took 
the mother and all her belongings.' 

' But what insane delusion is this, Ben ? You 
were in the house — you ' 

' When a man has a good wife and he's losing of 
her, he don't trouble himself about babies. He 
leaves 'em to the nurse. I don't say as Ann did it 
a purpose. One baby's as like another as two ears 



234 MR. Bryant's mistake 

of corn. She may ha' been tipsy without our know- 
ing it, and muddled 'em.' 

* But what in the world makes you think so ? ' 
asked Mr. Bryant, somewhat relieved ; ' / saw the 
dead child. Don't you remember ? ' 

' I ain't going to take your word for it. There 
isn't a man alive could identify a baby. I don't 
remember either of 'em having red hair in those days. 
Anyhow my child hadn't. What makes me think 
it ? The way the girl has turned out. She's light 
in her ways — not like Sarah's daughters ; and she 
has red hair. She's like Emma. Don't you see it ? ' 

' No, I don't,' said Mr. Bryant ; ' I think she is 
like your wife. I noticed the likeness yesterday, 
before I had any reason to connect her with you.' 
Mr. Randle laughed. 

* I do sincerely beg of you,' said Mr. Bryant, 
' not to put such an idea into Emma's head, unless 
you wish the whole thing brought forward.' 

*Ay, Emma's like to tell every one everything. 
That's why I don't want her within a hundred 
mile of me.' 

Mr. Bryant walked about the room in great 
agitation. 

' Ben, is there any necessity to mention any of 
this matter — our — ahem — relationship, I mean — 
beyond the family ? ' The farmer slapped his knee 
again, with his loud cackle of laughter. 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 235 

' I thought you were driving at that,' said he ; 
' I have known you and your notions a long time, 
Ned Bryant. I was expecting you to end up with 
some speech of this kind, my fine gentleman.' 

Mr. Bryant winced. He had always detested 
the coarseness of this brother-in-law. 

' I must leave the place the first moment I 
decently can,' he said to himself as he was walking 
away, returning as quickly as he could to his other 
life ; for he had promised to call for his wife and 
Georgina, who were spending the afternoon at the 
Heights. How soothing it was to his tortured 
soul to find himself once more in the society of 
ladies and gentlemen ! 



CHAPTEE XII 

Vincent Leicester also was getting some experi- 
ence of hving two lives. 

' Sir,' Ahck had said to him, ' I deceived you a 
bit when we parted in the winter, and my conscience 
won't let me keep the deception up, though it's more 
other folk's interests it would serve than my own.' 

' Well ? ' said the gentleman easily. 

' I told you, sir, as you'll remember, that me 
and Xannie was sweethearts ; that she was going to 



236 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

wed me. That was the deception, sir ; it's hard for 
me to confess it.' 

' Changed your mind ? ' asked Vincent. Perhaps 
he overdid his careless aspect, for Alick answered 
angrily — 

' Changed my mind ? Do you think that's the 
sort I am ? I^o, but I spoke more certain than I 
had ought. I hadn't asked the lass then, and 
when I came to ask her, she wouldn't have me.' 

' Oh,' said Vincent, still unmoved ; ' then if you 
will take my advice, you will ask her again. Let 
us hope she will change her mind. That is a 
woman's way.' Altogether too light and cynical 
for Alick's comprehension. He maintained a sulky 
silence for a minute, then said — 

* It makes no difference to any of the rest of what 
I tried to say to you that night, sir ; ' and was going 
out, but Vincent stopped him. 

' Wait a minute. I am not going to have any 
repetition of that impertinence, Alick,' he said ; ' I 
looked over it once, but I shall not look over it a 
second time. Do you hear me ? ' 

' Ay,' said Alick, sulkily. ' In so far as I did 
you wrong, sir, I ask your pardon.' 

Vincent opened the door himself and motioned 
him out. Then he stood at the bookcase, whistling, 
and aimlessly taking volumes down, clapping the 
dust out of them and putting them up again. 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 237 

' What difference does it make to me ? ' he said 
to himself angrily ; ' / can't have her. I wish to 
Heaven I had never seen her.' And then he had to 
join his mother for the entertaining of Georgina 
Bryant, his future wife. 

Georgina's entry into what she regarded as her 
certain home made a little sensation. The Sandfords 
were there, and two or three young men, very satis- 
factory to the beauty. She had dressed herself 
with care, in a plainly-made dress of becoming 
colour, which fitted her, to use her tailor's phrase, as 
if she were melted into it. When she came in, 
Vincent did feel a certain movement of admiration,- 
and planted himself deliberately by her side, with a 
short sensation of triumph upon which he con- 
gratulated himself heartily. How delighted was 
Georgina to be openly appropriated by Sir Vincent 
in this way, and how Miss Gerty Sandford envied 
her, as the young men hovered round her ; envied 
her ease too, her evident habit of reigning. She 
was quite like Lady Leicester already. Every one 
noticed it, and there was not a person in the room 
who didn't think young Sir Vincent had chosen 
remarkably well. 

' Did you say she was an heiress ? ' whispered 
young Lockwood to old Mr. Sandford. 

* Oh yes ; fortune secured to her from my 
relative the new Countess of Cookham. Only here 



238 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

on a visit. The attraction pretty evident, eh ? A 
most suitable thing for them both. He's a very nice 
lad — very nice ; and she's a thoroughbred nice girl.' 
Mr. Lockwood and his brother went home 
and told that the Bryants were not the kind of 
people they had supposed, but connected with the 
Leicesters and Lady Cookham ; and Miss Bryant 
was an heiress, and the handsomest girl within a 
hundred miles, and, it appeared, engaged to Leicester 
himself Lord George Frere, who was staying at 
Everwell, drew up a report much the same ; only, 
being a great friend of Vincent's and knowing his 
moods and manners, he was not positive that the 
engagement was a settled thing. There seemed 
something a little galvanic about the man's part of 
the flirtation. As time went on he got to look even 
a little bored. And alas for his self-gratulation ! 
Vincent was bored. After the first minute's 
triumph Georgina's sarcastic laugh vexed him ; he 
did not like the way she snubbed old Sandford. He 
caught her making eyes at George Frere, and began 
to think her eyes were bold. She chaffed him and 
he answered seriously ; she spoke seriously and he 
answered in jest. In the middle of the talk he was 
seized with a wish to gallop off Tanswick way, and 
see if he had been understood about some trees he 
wanted cleared near the site of the projected water- 
ing-place. Were all these people never going away ? 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 239 

There was no doubt at all about it, Georgina had 
lost her charm. 

All the while Miss Sandford was neglected, so Lady 
Katharine intervened in her behalf, and sent them all 
out to play tennis. Gertrude was a brilliant player, 
and her spirits rose with the hope of at last outshining 
that Frenchified Miss Bryant. But over the whole 
party failure reigned triumphant. As they went out 
Georgina walked with her lover, but he would talk 
all the way over his shoulder with young Lockwood 
about right angles and marking machines. Gerty 
struck in describing her method of measuring a 
court ; but nobody listened, and Georgina made 
her furious by a laugh of derision. Vincent was so 
sulky that he made up the set without himself, at 
which there was such an outcry that both the 
Lockwoods took offence, and moreover they were 
' out ' with each other, each thinking that the beauty 
exhibited preference for his brother. Georgina played 
ill ; her eye was untrained, and she objected to 
heating herself and stretching her dresses ; yet little 
Gerty found her most brilliant strokes unnoticed, 
while her very partner and all the spectators cried 
' Played ! ' every time Georgina touched the ball to 
send it to entirely the wrong place, and ' Hard lines 1 ' 
whenever she missed it. Even mild old Mr. Sand- 
ford, who was proud of his daughter's play, was 
irritated. ' Does it occur to you, madam,' he said. 



240 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

addressing the unobtrusive but very uncomfortable 
Mrs. Bryant, ' that the decadence in the manners of 
our young men has any connection with all this 
tennis ? In my day we treated a lady as a lady, 
but then we were never tempted to forget she was 
one by entering into a contest of agility with her.' 

Poor Emma, who could hardly manage to keep 
her grammar correct, was not at all prepared to be 
a censor of manners. She tried to turn the subject, 
and showed every one she had never heard of this 
fashionable amusement before. ' It's something like 
battledore,' she said, ' but I wonder they don't send it 
straighter at each other. We used to keep the shuttle- 
cock up ever so long by playing slowly and carefully.' 
And this speech annoyed Mr. Bryant, who had just 
come, and who was not sure that battledore had ever 
been fashionable in polite circles. 

Georgina refused to play again, and Gertrude 
having hesitated modestly and not having been 
pressed, the four men made up an ill-tempered set 
alone. Georgina asked Lady Katharine to show her 
the conservatory, and went away alone with the ' 
widow. ' Don't let it be " Miss Bryant " again,' 
said the girl ; ' I cannot feel you a stranger, dear 
Lady Katharine. Vincent has told me so much of 
you ! ' Then she blushed and looked down and said 
in a faltering voice, 'You know your son and I 
have been Vincent and Georgina to each other for 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 241 

SO long.' The widow was mucli touched. She took 
the young hand in hers. 

'My dearest child, I know, I know. He told 
me himself.' 

How beautiful was the shy, startled Georgina! 
' Oh, but I didn't mean that. I didn't mean to 
allude to that. WTiat must you have thought of me ! 
I only meant that he and I were very great friends. 
But not anything else,^ you know. Oh no ; only 
cousins and — and — very great friends.' And she 
sighed pensively. Lady Katharine kissed her. 

' I am afraid, dear child, that Vincent won't be 
content with that,' she whispered, smiling. 

That talk with the mother-in-law elect was satis- 
factory, but the lover himself was not satisfactory at 
all. Even Mr. Bryant noticed it. And Georgina, the 
moment she was out of the great people's sight, let 
herself look low-spirited, discomfited, and cross. 

Altogether the party broke up uncomfortably in 
the extreme. Even Lady Katharine had discerned ill- 
humour in the air. 



CHAPTEE XIII 

The company of bores were no sooner gone than 
Vincent was off like a shot. He forgot all about 
dinner, an aberration which had never in his life 
VOL. I 16 



242 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

occurred to him before, and for which old John 
alone was able to account ; he concluded unhesi- 
tatingly that his master had been listening to Alick 
Eandle and had got Conviction. 

' Marry Georgina ? ' Vincent said to himself as 
he plunged out ; ' never ! Why, I nearly hate her. ^ 
She doesn't amuse me a bit. I dislike her. She 
has no heart. She is a humbug. She isn't a 
quarter as handsome as I thought. How could I 
ever have fancied myself in love with her ? ' 

What a sad falling off was this after the move- 
ment of admiration he had been so pleased with on 
the day of her arrival Each time he had seen her 
since he had admired her less, and no self-persuasion 
could blind him to the fact. He took his little 
boat and rowed himself savagely out to sea. It was 
the time when the strand was deserted, about an 
hour before the cobles would put out for the night's 
fishing. One or two women with coils of nets 
round them were passing backwards and forwards 
between the dye-works and the boats ; a few 
children played on the sand. Otherwise there was 
little sign of life about the place. The tide was out, 
and the low, shaly rocks which the people called 
the Scar, were uncovered. Vincent rounded the 
point to the absolute solitude of the next little bay, 
where was no landing except on these quickly 
covered rocks, for the cliff came sheer down to the 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 243 

high-tide water mark. But his eye caught a figure 
there, standing on the edge of the waves, and 
watching the splashing and tumbling of the in- 
coming surf, golden in the evening glow. She was 
quite alone. Vincent shipped his oars and watched 
her. Presently she retreated a little, and sat under 
a great rock before which was a glorious sea-weedy 
pool, never emptied by the tide, and gorgeous with 
all manner of ocean jewels and flowers. 

Vincent was reckless to-night and his resolution 
was taken in a moment. He landed, secured his 
boat, and joined her. Had she not said long ago 
that she came sometimes of an evening to look at 
the waves ? And had he not ever since intended 
some day to join her in that solitude of sky and 
sea, where old ocean and the friendly cliffs conspired 
to secure them from intruders ? 

Nannie wore the stuff dress like Patty's which 
her father had ordered, but she had not cut her 
hair. On the contrary, tired of the prim hat which 
had replaced the sun-bonnet, she had laid it on the 
ground, and had unfastened the despised red locks, 
which floated round her now like a sunset cloud. 
Her eyes had the depth and the colour of the 
evening sea, yet shone with a starry radiance. 
There was always a suggestion of purple about 
Nannie ; in the depths of those long-lashed eyes, in 
the veins on her white temples, in the shadows of 



244 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

her shining hair ; to-night she had emphasized it by 
a string of purple beads round her throat where 
Patty had desired a linen collar. The beads had 
been tied there by her little cousin Mary Anne and 
were mere glass penny beads ; the girl's beauty 
changed them to amethysts. Thinking herself 
alone, she had taken off her stockings to stand in 
the tumbling wavelets. When she saw Sir Vincent 
approaching she coloured, but was not disquieted by 
her little bare white feet, as she would have been 
upon discovery by Alick — Alick, whose only idea 
of bare feet was that they were naked, and pertained 
to the bold lasses of the fishing village which needed 
reformation. Nannie couldn't resist a faint smile as 
she got up and made a sort of curtsy, coquettish 
enough in its mingled respect and friendliness. 
Patty or Caroline would as soon have thought of 
curtsying to Sir Vincent as of going to dine with him ; 
and he smiled at the ceremony from Nannie. ' Pray 
sit down again,' said the gentleman, and stretched 
himself on a rock at a little distance, where he could 
watch her. I cannot undertake to explain what 
Nannie was thinking of as she sat silently there, 
and knew that he was watching her ; a mysterious 
little smile was lurking round her pretty lips ; but 
I am much afraid she would not have obeyed him 
so readily had she not known this part of the shore, 
ever unvisited at this hour by persons of her 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 245 

acquaintance. She remembered defiantly the censure 
and warnings of her family as she looked at Sir 
Vincent, and secure in her admiration, she felt it 
a point of honour to trust him imphcitly. And Vin- 
cent felt all the vexation and discomfort and anxiety 
of a day spent in a false worship roll off his soul 
while a calm and beatitude unspeakable wrapped him 
in a golden mist of delight. Only nothing was farther 
from his thoughts than any love-making. That was 
impossible between them, and he did not wish even 
to suggest it to ISTannie. So there was a long space 
of pleasant silence. And neither of them realised 
— Nannie from inexperience ; Vincent from the dif- 
ferent experience natural to polished society — what 
advances in courtship can be made without the 
assistance of a single syllable. However, after a 
time they felt a necessity for irrelevant speech. 

' You have run away from your family to-night, 
Miss Nannie ? ' 

' I came, sir, to see if Maggie's mother wanted 
me again. You know I stayed with her last night 
after the prayer meeting.' 

' Are you so fond of sick people V 
' No. I like well people best.' 
' And she didn't make you stay to-night ?' 
'No. She is getting quite well. She was 
sitting up eating and laughing. Do you know, sir, 
she says Alick cured her ! She was like dying 



246 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

when he and. I went in last night. But Alick 
prayed very earnestly and laid his hand on her, and 
anointed her with oil like it says in James. Even 
Dr. Yerrill thinks she will do now. Please, sir, do 
you think it can be so ? That Alick's prayer cured 
her?' 

' More likely the stopping of Dr. Verrill's 
medicine,' said Vincent. 'Pray what does Alick 
think of it now ? ' 

' He is not surprised at her getting well. He 
showed me a verse in Mark : " He that believeth 
and is baptized shall be saved" Qie means everybody; 
we all know that. But it goes on). " These signs 
shall follow them that believe " (Alick says that must 
mean everybody too). " In my name they shall cast 
out devils, and speak with tongues, and drink deadly 
things ; and they shall lay hands on the sick and 
they shall recover." I didn't know what to say 
when Alick showed me that verse. What would 
you have said, please, sir ?' asked Nannie, eagerly. 

' I should have asked him if he spoke with 
tongues.' 

' But he says he could, if it was really wanted 
for God's glory ! He says it is faith. " If ye have 
faith as a mustard seed, ye shall move mountains."' 

' Do you believe it yourself, Nannie ? ' 

' No. I can't somehow. I sliould never have 
faith enough, sir ; never — I should say, " As I 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 247 

expected, the mountain hasn't stirred ! " But Alick 
has faith, and indeed that woman is getting quite 
well ! ' 

' A regular, terrifying, potent magician, Xannie.' 

' Oh, please sir, do tell me what I ought to think 
about it,' pleaded Nannie. 

' I don't profess to understand. You had better 
consult Mr. Bryant.' 

' But, sir, don't you think prayers are answered ?' 

' I haven't the smallest idea. I never met with 
the question or thought about such things at all till 
I came to EverwelL' 

' Didn't you ? ' said Nannie, shocked. Vincent 
laughed. 

' You and Alick think of them too much, I 
suspect. However, I presume the human soul is 
bound to feel after the gods. People saw that very 
early. The Jews said that man was made in the 
divine image, and the old Greeks had another fable ; 
Psyche, that is the soul, was a mortal maid, but 
her mate was a god, and he carried her to heaven at 
last.' 

' Oh, I know all about that ! ' cried Nannie 
breathlessly, ' I have oh such a pretty book Miss 
Verrill threw away. It is called the Eartlily 
Paradise. And it tells about Psyche. And the 
god was the god of Love ! ' 

' Yes,' said Vincent. And then there was silence. 



24S MR. BR YANT S MISTAKE 

for the word Love had been spoken, and it seemed 
to chase away all others. But alas for the barrier 
between them ! Neither of them dared to pursue 
or to manifest the train of thoughts that little word 
had called up. Only Vincent breathed hard and 
looked at this fair creature beside him, bathed as 
she was in the golden sunlight, and the glory 
of youth, and the glow of youth's awakening 
passion. 

By this time he was sitting on the rock at her 
side, and his arm stole out to go round her. But 
he refrained, and jumping to his feet, stood for a 
long while looking at the incoming waves, while 
unutterable wishes and impracticable fancies chased 
each other through his head. He was startled by 
a cry from Nannie, as a large wave falling on her 
left side sent the spray as far as to her feet. 

' Oh the tide ! the tide ! ' she cried, half laughing 
and clasping her hands ; ' we have forgotten all 
about it, and now I don't know how to get round 
the point.' 

Vincent turned. ' In my boat, Nannie. There 
is no danger. Don't be frightened.' And he held 
out his hand reassuringly. Nannie pushed it away 
with the lightest touch of her slender fingers, and 
moved backwards, laughing and blushing. 

' I am not frightened one bit ! But I think I 
had better wade through the water and swim a 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 249 

little way. Father wouldn't like me to go in your 
boat.' 

' Why not ? ' said Vincent, with so prosaic an 
air that Nannie grew still rosier, and felt it would be 
very awkward to explain. 'Your father couldn't 
like you to sit here for six hours even alone ^ said 
the young man, audaciously, ' or to be drowned at 
the point, or dragged ashore by your hair in the 
grasp of those bathing little boys on the pier. 
Jump in, Nannie, and do what I tell you, or you'll 
upset the boat. How pretty ' 

' What ? ' said Nannie, pausing as she stood on 
the rower's seat holding his hand. 

' I was going to remark what pretty feet you 
have,' said Vincent, drily, ' but I thought perhaps 
you'd be angry.' 

' Yes, I am very angry,' said Nannie, sitting 
down demurely where she was bidden. 

He hoisted the sail, and they scudded away 
swiftly over the lonely waves. They did not talk 
any more, but they were both radiantly happy, and 
would have liked to speed on for ever thus — together, 
over the purple sea, under a golden sky. Vincent 
watched her pretty closely, and Nannie kept her 
eyes down, only very occasionally stealing a glance 
at her companion, and doing her very best to over- 
come the little smile that dimpled her cheek. 
Vincent tacked several times unnecessarily ; but 



250 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

they arrived at the shore half-way to Tans wick far 
too soon. N'annie sprang lightly on the beach, and 
when Vincent repeated — 

' What pretty feet you have 1 ' she only laughed 
softly. Then she said very gravely — 

' Good-night, sir, and thank you.' 

' Sha'n't I walk up with you ? It's a long 
way.' 

' No, thank you, sir. Please will you listen to 
me now for a minute,' and through her merry smile 
was an air of terrific resolution. ' I sha'n't come 
down at this hour on the scar any more to be 
caught by the tide. And I'm never going in yon 
boat. Never again.' 

' Bless me, Nannie ! Why not ? ' 

' Never again,' repeated Nannie ; ' it — it makes 
me sea-sick.' And she couldn't help laughing a 
little, and Vincent laughed too. 

'You look very rosy considering you are sea- 
sick ! ' he said, just tapping her cheek with his 
finger, and then he turned back and got into his 
boat again, and sailed away out to sea, forgetting 
all about dinner, as I have said. By degrees his 
smile, which long lingered, faded away in the 
seriousness of reflection. ' I have not done much 
good by running away,' he said to himself. ' Well, 
the running-away style of warfare was never the 
one which attracted me most. I will face this 



ILL WEEDS GROW APACE 251 

matter and see what comes of it. But to begin 
with, I will make a solemn vow, taking this sky and 
this sea to witness, that I will do Nannie no harm. 
She is as innocent as my mother ; and by Heaven 
I will never make her otherwise.' 



PART IV 
BASCIANTE 

Faerie Queene, book iii. canto i. verse 45. 



CHAPTEE I 

The sun rises each morning and disperses the morn- 
ing mist, and climbs ' the high-up heavenly hill/ send- 
ing his beams far through transparent blue or hiding 
them behind curtains of coming storm, all just as 
he has done a thousand times before ; quite care- 
less that there are restless hearts sick to death of 
regularity and calm, weary sufferers crying for the 
end of all things, happy souls who, like Joshua, bid 
the great lamp stand still ; and young hopeful 
children of fortune who would hurry the wheels of 
his chariot, because though they are well now they 
think to be better by and by. And when the day 
comes which is to make some change, to begin a 
new order of thinc^s in some folk's lives, that un- 
feeling old sun who sees it all, ojives never a siojn 
of emotion, but goes on with his work just as usual ; 
the eternal model of patience, fidelity, and absolute 
self-control. It was one of these eventful days 
which dawned at Everwell. 

Alick Eandle was standino' at the door of 



256 MR. Bryant's mistake 

his workshop, his face haggard as after a long 
night's watching. In very truth he had not slept. 
By a path that he knew not it seemed his 
God was leading him, and his earthly part shrank 
back from the unknown, over which, however, 
streamed for him an unearthly light. Was it a 
Will-o'-the-wisp? a lighthouse on a fatal rock? 
a candle for a moth ? or was it in very truth the 
Pillar of Fire lighted by God's own hand to point 
out the way ? Alick had agonized in prayer all 
night for guidance, and when the morning came, 
while it was yet dusk, he saw strange beckoning 
hands, and heard strange voices saying, ' This is the 
way ; walk thou in it.' 

For the fever had been spreading during these 
few thundery days of premature heat ; and Alick 
had touched the sick other than Maggie's mother ; 
and the report ran now that recovery each time had 
followed — nay, that in one case the sufferer had 
seen the holy man enter all transfigured by 
heavenly radiance, flooding the cottage with golden 
light, waking jewels in the mud walls, changing the 
floor to glass, and the hearthstone ^ to jasper, till 
there was vision of the New Jerusalem, as John saw 
it in the isle of Patmos ; and Alick's voice, which 
the bystanders had heard breathing a quiet prayer 
in the name of Christ, had sounded in the sick 
man's ear as a voice of many waters, saying unto him. 



BASCIANTE 257 

' Thy sins be forgiven thee.' When Alick heard 
that story he trembled very exceedingly; and he 
listened when old John Price said he preached a 
better gospel than the new parson, and when wild 
Samuel Dykes assured him that God chooseth the 
weak of the world to confound the mighty. The 
whole village came to the meeting that night, 
for the conviction had spread like wildfire that 
the divine finger had showed itself, and that the 
pestilence and the signs and the wonders were a 
warning and a voice from heaven. And before 
Alick appeared Samuel Dykes rose up, strongly 
impressed, he said, by the spirit, and addressed 
the people ; preaching unto them less the one 
great Allah than Alick Eandle his prophet : — 
till everything ordinary in Alick's career, every- 
thing capable of a natural explanation was forgotten 
and nothing was kept in view but his mysterious 
superiority. Among ignorant people any strong 
impression is infectious. Alick himself was not so 
superior to those about him as to resist the infection 
of their belief, when upon joining the assembly he 
was greeted with a shout almost of worship. He 
had dreamed so long of being a prophet, a teacher 
set apart by Heaven for a peculiar service, that he 
was prepared to hear in the Vodz PopvM the Vox 
Dei ; and he was ready to obey the call. 

But Alick had not that powerful element of 
VOL. I 17 



258 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

success, an unwavering self-confidence. In his heart 
he was hesitating now, and praying for a sign. 
This gift of healing ? His transfiguration in the 
eyes of old Western the fisherman ? Alick, the 
stern truth -teller, had discerned exaggeration in 
these reports ; and he was unable to consult the 
minister, for, alas 1 the minister was a liar, and 
Alick had lost all faith in him. He had to find 
out the truth for himself So Alick went to the 
meeting, and he was stirred to his soul, first by the 
large attendance and then by the growing enthu- 
siasm and confidence. He prayed aloud ; he spoke 
of sin, and the people wept ; of salvation, and they 
cried, ' Hosanna to him that cometh in the name of 
the Lord.' He had power, it seemed, to move their 
souls which way he would. Could he refuse to 
believe that God was with him ? Yet he doubted 
still ; and in the room were two or three who 
doubted also, and waited to see whereunto this 
would grow. 

And then Alick, half to persuade himself, spoke 
of the prayer of faith and a God pledged to answer 
it even to the removing of mountains. Such 
mountains, thought Alick, as the hardness of godless 
hearts and the great wickedness of men's corrupted 
souls. But ah ! his hearers were of the earth earthy, 
and they cared little really for righteousness and peace 
and joy in the Holy Ghost. When Alick spoke of 



B ASCI ANTE 259 

mountains they thought of Everwell clift's, and when 
he spoke of serpents, they remembered the vipers 
they had found on the moor and the rattlesnakes in 
spirits of wine which Dr. Yerrill kept as chimney 
ornaments. And now the doubters cried aloud, 
' Alick, show us a sign ! ' and he did not with his 
Master reply, ' An evil and adulterous generation 
seeketh after a sim.' For he was himself craving 
for a sign. Had not the commission of the very 
Jesus been openly signed and sealed by the Father's 
audible voice and the descending dove of the pre- 
sence of the Spirit ? 

And then the people, — Samuel Dykes, the lean 
man who had spoken of Alick before his arrival, 
who was faith and confidence personified, acting as 
spokesman, — took up the words Alick had just read 
to them, words w^hich in Alick's voice full of holy 
awe were impressive — had not little Xannie been so 
impressed by them that she had learned them by 
heart and repeated them on a not particularly suit- 
able occasion ? — and said : 

'Alick, it is the Lord's promise that the signs 
shall follow. Man, wilt thou not show thy faith 
before the people, and in sight of the sun and 
the world, drink in God's name of a deadly thing to 
show it will not hurt thee ? ' 

A strong shudder seized Alick as he turned his 
mild eyes on the speaker, and he saw the eager faces 



26o MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

around him, and knew they were all waiting his 
answer. Quick, a prayer for guidance ! The eyes 
were raised to heaven, the nervous hands were 
crossed upon his breast — 

'Lord, I have told that the words are Thine. 
Shall I doubt them now ? Is this Thy call to test 
me ? Is this the seal of my commission ? Thou 
shalt show Thy glory ! or I will die for Thee, 
believing that my death shall glorify Thee.' 

There was a hush in the room while Alick spoke, 
and when he had done there was long silence as of 
the grave. Then they separated till noon, when 
the ordeal was to take place. And Alick sent a 
message to Kannie, bidding her to come to him 
early. 

And then followed the sleepless night of ecstasy ; 
the fear of death, the setting of his things in order, 
for it seemed to the still doubting Alick that mere 
death in his Master's cause was to be the end of all 
his hopes, his aspirations, his many failures, and 
his sudden success ; his prayers and his agonies, his 
fear of himself and his great faith in God. The end 
too of his earthly love ; his care for Nannie, his pure 
passion for her, his soul-cleaving to her, which 
would fain have carried her with him up into 
the heaven for which he yearned. For Alick had 
no strong confidence that God would protect his 
Nannie. It was the remains of the old asceticism. 



BASCIANTE 261 

God had ipcrmitUd His servant's earthly love, but 
it could not be thought to interest Him ! He might 
forget to take care of Nannie when her lover had 
gone to be his God's only ! 

Strange, grotesque, heathenish ignorance and 
superstition from beginning to end ! Yet the obedi- 
ence, the self-abnegation, and the courage which were 
needed by a Loyola, a Luther, a Paul, were here in 
this obscure village prophet. He believed that 
God had called him, and he rose up to obey. 

And the sun rose just as usual and shone on 
Everwell unfeelingly, — shone on Mr. Bryant con- 
sidering the dangers he had escaped, and the horrible 
nest of poor relations into which he had stepped : 
on Georgina, weaving nets of French fashions for 
lovers ; on Vincent, thinking of Nannie and wishing 
himself a fisherman ; on Nannie, wishing herself a 
lady and preparing, rather unwillingly, to run off' 
when breakfast was over and see why poor dear 
Alick wanted her so early. And it shone on a 
sorrowful ecstatic man ; who had seen beckoning 
hands and heard the call of holy voices ; who had 
risen serene and resolved, yet believing in some 
confused way that he was called to death and the 
laying down of all earthly joys ; and that the seal 
of his commission, the sign, the test of his faith, was 
to be the martyr's triumphant end. 



262 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 



CHAPTEE II 

He took her aside, and after a brief moment of 
agitation, told her what had occurred with an un- 
natural calm which frightened the girl more than 
any excitement. But Alick did not make his 
account of the ordeal by poison clear. He talked 
too much of resigning his life at the call of God, and 
Nannie did not take in that the people expected 
to see him live. She thought he was going to be 
murdered, and his resignation filled her with horror. 
Was he going out of his mind then ? 

Nannie darted into her aunt's parlour, found a 
sheet of paper and wrote, underlining every other 
word: ' Please, sir, something dreadful is happening ; 
Alick is going to be poisoned. Please, please, sir, 
come down yourself and stop it. — Nannie.' She 
snatched the baby from Mary Anne and sent the 
child with the note to the Heights. ' You will 
run, Polly. You won't stop a single moment. And 
you will ask to see Sir Vincent, and will put it into 
his very own hand yourself.' 

But little Mary Anne did linger with a school- 
fellow ; and at the sweety shop, for Nannie kept 
her little cousins rich in pennies ; and then she 
stopped on the cliff to watch the boats come in, and 



BASCIANTE 263 

altogether it was past ten before she reached the 
Heights, and learned that Sir Vincent had gone out. 
She left the note with John and dawdled home 
again. 

Alick had gone into the workshop to speak to 
his men, and JSTannie, with the baby on her knee, 
waited with her aunt, and looked with terror at the 
advancing clock, and at the spectators already begin- 
ning to assemble for the miracle at noon. Poor 
Mrs. Leach was excited and lachrjmiose. 

' I'm mortal afeard at him, Nannie, my lamb,' 
she said ; ' Jim Eandle, his da, always said to me, 
" That boy, Ann, has all your resolution, and a 
pig's head as well." ' 

' It's not that, aunt,' said Nannie, mechanically ; 
' Alick thinks it is right' 

' Nan,' said Mrs. Leach, coming nearer, ' do you 
think it's true that my poor boy with his head is a 
prophet like Elijah and Jonah ? I begin to think so 
myself. He's wonderful like an angel when his head 
doesn't put him in tantrums. It 'ud look as if God 
didn't mind tantrums so much, if He gave him 
whatever he asked for. Do you think He does ? ' 

' I hope not, aunt.' 

' But seeing as you and your father think of 
marrying him. Nan, it 'ud be a mighty convenient 
thing in a husband if he could do miracles. You 
wouldn't never want a doctor for your children, 



264 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

my dear ; and if he could stomach anything, law 
now, feeding him would be easy.' 

' Here is Mary Anne at last ! ' cried Nannie, 
jumping up. 

How the child's report frightened her ! Without 
hesitation she flew off to the Heights herself. 

' My pretty dear,' said John, ' it ain't seemly so 
many young lasses coming after my young master. 
I kep your note for Sir Vincent, but I read it first, 
and I can tell you, my lass, though it's nat'ral you 
should be in a taking about your sweetheart, I'm 
glad my young master is gone out till evening by 
train with Lord George, the noble gentleman ; for 
Sir Vincent is but carnal, and addicted to quenching 
the Spirit and hindering Alick.' 

' Oh, if I had only come myself at first ! ' cried 
Nannie, and she went away again, running and 
crying and panting, and almost praying herself, but 
for Sir Vincent Leicester's presence. 

' Dr. Verrill ? Ah yes ! A good idea.' Nannie 
rang violently at the bell of the pink house. 

' I can't speak to any one ! ' called the doctor 
from an upper window. ' I am making a calculation 
for a new febrifuge. Go away.' 

' Sir, it is life and death with Alick ! ' cried 
Nannie, from the road below. 

' Oh, pooh ! You ought to know his seizures by this 
time. Go home and put a mustard plaster to his feet.' 



BASCIANTE 265 

' Oh, what shall I do ? ' sobbed JSTannie, as the 
window slammed down again. ' I will go to the 
new clergyman ! ' 

Mr. Bryant felt an unconquerable aversion to 
confronting Nannie. He sent out word that he 
was always engaged on Friday morning with his 
sermon, and all business must wait till the afternoon. 

There was no time for expostulation. The girl 
returned to her cousin. She found a crowd, chiefly 
of fishing people, assembled before the door; and 
Alick, with his head bare to the sunshine, preaching 
a farewell sermon. He smiled as he saw Nannie 
and beckoned her to his side. He took her hand 
and bending towards her, whispered gently, touched 
by her distress — 

' Nannie, it ain't to the glory of God for thee to 
cry, but bless thee, my lass, my lass ! ' 

' Oh, Alick, come away ! ' cried Nannie, beside 
herself, ' I'll do anything for you if only you'll come 
away ! ' And then a great terror seized her that 
Alick would take her at her word, and come down 
and make her marry him. But Alick gently put 
her from him. 

' Nannie, don't ask me to think thee a tempter, my 
lassie. I must not sell my soul even for thee.' Then 
Nannie dashed her tears away and stood up straight. 

' I'll never tempt thee, Alick,' she said; ' listen, the 
clock is striking. Give me the poison ! I will hand 



266 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

it to thee myself.' There was sign of disapproba- 
tion in the crowd which had watched this strange 
love scene impatiently ; but Samuel Dykes, the 
lean fanatic, proposer of the ordeal, passed the 
deadly cup to Nannie, who received it, while Mrs. 
Leach screamed lustily, setting off Sally and Lizzie, 
and not a few of the other women and young people 
standing by. The men, vexed by this commotion, 
set up a loud-voiced and inharmonious hymn, 
nervously noisy and dictatorial. Alick alone pre- 
served his seraphic calm. ' Let us pray,' he said, 
one arm round Nannie's neck and his hand in hers. 
He had paled as he threw his last look at the sun- 
shine and the sparkling sea, beautiful to his painter's 
eye, and he did not trust himself to look at Nannie. 
The crowd sank on their knees and the wailing of 
the women was conquered by admiration and 
wonder. Then there was silence and Alick stretched 
out his hand for the potion. 

' Thank thee, my love, my wife ! ' murmured 
Alick ; for somehow at this supreme moment he 
could not concentrate his thoughts on heaven, and 
was thinking far more of his sweet Nannie, submitting 
to his embrace, and about to be relinquished for 
ever. All this time the girl had been holding the 
mug containing the poison and summoning up 
courage for what she was meaning to do ; now, 
closing her eyes for a moment as if concentrating 



BASCIANTE 267 

her fast ebbinsj strene^th, she fliiuej it with all her 
mis^ht asjainst the wall of the house, where it was 
shivered and broken to atoms. 

What followed all seemed like a dream to Xannie, 
who had exhausted her nervous force, and could have 
yelled herself into fits like her aunt. She was just 
conscious of a momentary hush fallen upon the throng, 
as if they recognised in this interruption the expected 
miracle.; then that Alick was displeased and pushed 
her from him, and that the crowd caught the infection 
of his mood, and drove her away. Staggering, trem- 
t)ling, yet content in having accomplished her object, 
she sank on the doorstep and tried to still her 
beating heart, and to silence the roaring in her ears. 
The crowd was disappointed of their show, and there 
might have been an uproar. But Alick and the 
lean man were equal to the occasion. Alick knelt 
again, this time alone, his eyes fixed on the heavens 
and his arms crossed on his breast. And again 
silence and calm were restored while the people 
watched to see what he would do. And Samuel 
Dykes had had the forethought to bring a second 
draught of the deadly liquid, which he produced 
now. Alick drank it. 

And horrible fear fell on the assembled throng, 
and every face turned ashen and every pulse stopped ; 
and these rude villagers realised what they had done. 
But Alick still knelt in prayer, and was struggling 



268 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

with a suffocating sensation in his throat, while the 
fair receding world reeled and danced before his 
closing eyes, and he heard with eerie distinctness his 
mother's cries from within the house, and dear 
Nannie's gasping sobs from where she crouched on 
the doorstep. 

Ten minutes passed of stillness and horror — 
twenty ; and Alick, who had believed himself 
entered into the Valley of the Shadow of Death, felt, 
to his amazement, the effects of the dose, or of his 
fear, passed off. 

Explain it how you will : that the stuff was 
impure and old, that the lean man for reasons of his 
own had adulterated it or had administered some- 
thing else ; that it was Alick's idiosyncrasy to be 
able to take that particular poison ; — there was only 
one explanation for him and for the people of 
Everwell. And so he rose from his knees a new 
man. Not merely had the oppressive doubts of 
himself passed away, but a great clearness seemed 
to have fallen over his whole onward path ; scales 
had dropped from his eyes. He was verily invested 
with his commission by the divine hand ; he was 
transfigured publicly before all the people. 

So he rose, to the strong awe and terror of 
the crowd ; and seeing the eager faces round him, 
crowding upon him, straining their ears to hear his 
most trifling word, he began in the power of his 



BASCIANTE 269 

inspiration to preach ; but not as before, with sup- 
plication and agony; his tone now was one of 
authority, and his message one of gratulation. 
Alick's voice rang with triumph, as did Christian's 
when he emerged from the Valley of Humiliation. 
Never again would he know perplexity or suffering ; 
fear for himself or others ; doubt that the way un- 
known was in very truth the way of life ! 

In the middle of which sermon Mr. Bryant came 
up, listened for a few moments, then felt the pro- 
ceedings objectionable and tried to disperse the 
assembly. But Alick Eandle looked at him with 
an expression of opposition altogether new, and con- 
tinued his address. And the people remained in rapt 
attention, the attitude of their minds obedient ; so 
that presently Mr. Bryant had to retire, vanquished. 



CHAPTEE III 

We take the events of this strange day as near as 
possible in the order in which they happened. 
While Alick was working miracles, Mrs. Bryant 
with her husband's permission, had been to see her 
relations at the Farm, and Caroline escorted her 
part of the way home ; en route they met Nannie, 
returning a good deal shaken after her morning, 
and Caroline introduced her to her aunt. 



270 MR. Bryant's MISTAKE 

' I am glad you enjoyed yourself, my dear Emma/ 
said Mr. Bryant, ' but another time pray do not 
stay so long. I have been embarrassed by Georgina's 
curiosity.' He smiled as he spoke, for it had 
always been Mr. Bryant's habit to smile at his wife, 
and he was in love with her still in a prosaic, 
middle-aged sort of way, not incompatible with con- 
tentions. 

' I wish you would tell Georgie, Ned. If she 
sees the dear girls here she'll be wondering why I'm 
so loving to them.' 

' I hardly think Georgie would appreciate that 
blunt, housekeeper-like personage they call Patty. 
You, as a girl, were singularly unlike that, Emma.' 

' I didn't ask her, Ned. I did see she wasn't 
distinguished.' 

' Whom have you asked ? ' questioned Mr. 
Bryant, sharply. 

' Caroline, who you said was something like I 
was. And the little one, Nannie.' 

' Nannie ! ' Mr. Bryant flung the window open 
noisily, not sure how to express himself prudently. 

' She was the baby when I saw them last. She 
was the same age as ' 

' Emma ! ' 

' I know, Ned. But it gives me an interest in 
Nannie. And she looked such a lovely creature 
with beautiful bright hair and such soft eyes, and a 



B ASCI ANTE 271 

smile like an angel. She's as pretty as Georgina, 
Ned. I suppose you haven't seen her, or you'd have 
told me.' This comparison of the terrible child to 
his daughter was unbearable. 

'I won't have that girl coming about here!' he 
said explosively, his pulse quickening. How in- 
expressively vexatious of Emma to take a fancy to 
Nannie ! Alick Eandle was waiting to see him in 
the study, and Mr. Bryant went down, reflecting 
unpleasantly that his second marriage had not turned 
out so well as he had expected, and half-wishing he 
had let it alone. Long ago he had been unable to 
think of Mary Smith without a perceptible diminu- 
tion of affection for her mother, and now here was 
Mary Smith by his very side. How was he to 
endure it ? 

' Well, my man,' said Mr. Bryant, patronisingly, 
' you have come to account for your preaching at 
that early hour. Sit down.' 

' I have other things to say to you, sir,' replied 
Alick ; ' but maybe it will do no harm if I explain 
the preaching first.' Mr. Bryant looked hard at 
him, and detected a change in his manner. 

' My dear fellow,' said the clergyman, when 
Alick had impressively described his morning's 
work, ' I have met with this sort of thino- before in 
my ministerial experience. You are mistaken if 
you expect sympathy from me ; or if you think you 



272 MR. BR YANT S MISTAKE 

or any one is endowed with miraculous gifts. You 
have misread your Bible. You had better, if you 
have really swallowed poison, go off at once and 
consult Dr. Verrill, or you will find yourself very 
ill to-morrow, which will not be at all romantic, 
my friend ; not at all.' A prosaic and slightly 
humorous view of the situation, not likely to 
commend itself to one so serious as Alick. 

' Sir,' said the young man, with unconscious 
dignity, ' I cannot listen while you blaspheme the 
power of the Holy Ghost. But I did not come 
here to talk of myself I came, in G-od's name, to 
reprove you for the lying tongue you have brought 
among us. Mrs. Bryant was my father's sister, sir,' 
he said, after a pause. 

' Ah, I suspected from your presumption that you 
had been informed of that fact.' 

' And you paid my mother to keep that a secret, sir.' 

' To speak plainly, Alick,' said the candid Mr. 
Bryant, relenting from the severity of his last 
remark, ' I am ashamed of your mother.' 

' When you found my uncle was here too,' con- 
tinued Alick, ' you trembled. I saw you ; I was by, 
I and the girls. You haven't dared to bribe my 
uncle, but it seems you have persuaded him also to 
hold his tongue.' 

' Benjamin Eandle is aware of reasons which 
make this our wisest course.' 



BASCIANTE 273 

' What are the reasons ? ' Mr. Bryant, his arm 
thrown over the back of his chair, was looking his 
adversary full in the face with temper, candour, and 
half-amused patience. 

' There is no necessity to impart them to you, 
my friend,' he said, with a smile. ' Come,^do you 
know that you are making yourself ridiculous V 

' Maybe, sir. But I mean, reasons or no reasons, 
to step up to Sir Vincent Leicester and to tell him 
the whole truth.' Mr. Bryant quaked. 

' Eeally ? I have no doubt Sir Vincent will 
be grateful. Suppose you find he knows it 
already ? ' 

' Don't try befooling me, man,' cried Alick ; ' you 
ain't told Sir Vincent, and you ain't a-going to do it 
without I make you. But I will have nought to 
do with the cursed thing. I will have no lie on my 
conscience. I will be no partaker in other men's 
sins. If you, or some one belonging to you, have 
done wrong ' 

' Before I indulge you in further vituperation,' 
interrupted the clergyman, sternly, ' I must know 
what you mean by that insinuation.' 

' I know nought against you, sir,' said the man 
with apologetic humility, ' but I cannot think 
what else you should want to lie about it for. 
There ain't nothing to be ashamed of in belonging 
to working folk. I'd have expected a minister to 
VOL. I 18 



274 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

see that when our Lord Himself was a carpenter. 
Sir, there will no good come to Everwell, if him as 
has been set over us is a humbug and a liar, and I 
tell you in God's name I will not suffer it to be. 
Do you understand me, Mr. Bryant ? it ain't that I 
think less of you for being my own kin. It don't 
bring us no nearer together in the matter of book- 
learning, and money, and all the things that go to 
make a gentleman. You'll not find me wanting in 
respect to all that. But a gentleman has the same 
need as a common man to be honest ; and I will not 
hesitate to withstand you if you ain't that, which is 
the A and B of Christianity. I'll give you a day 
or two to bethink yourself, sir. But after that, 
whether you have spoken or not, I'll tell my story 
to Sir Vincent Leicester.' 

Mr. Bryant made no attempt at dissuasion. He 
recognised the pig-headedness long ago discerned in 
Alick by his father, Jim Eandle ; and he almost 
wished he could see signs of the poison taking effect 
upon him. Alick was not to be influenced by any 
arguments the clergyman could use, nor to be 
silenced by any bribe there was to offer. And then 
there flashed across Mr. Bryant's mind, what in his 
irritation he had been near forgetting, — a sense of 
how true were Alick's accusations ; how entirely he 
condemned himself; how miserably he had failed in 
his duty, not only as a Christian minister, but as a 



B ASCI ANTE 275 

Christian man. And he remembered how this very 
Alick, whom he was regarding now with aversion 
and contempt, had stirred his soul a few nights 
before ; and he recollected with a shudder his own 
petition, surely sincere ? that the path of truth 
might be made easier for him than the path of lies. 
The fulfilment had come then ? 

* Good heavens ! ' thought ]\Ir. Bryant, ' this 
man's superstition about direct answers is more 
reasonable than I supposed. And I — I find the 
answer intolerable. I prefer the way of deceit ! 
Good heavens ! ' 

Mr. Bryant had ' conviction ' ; but to keep it up 
in absolutely pure condition w^as not easy. The 
wind of his thoughts began to veer round a 
little. 

' Leave this place I must,' he said within him- 
self, ' but I will do it with dignity, and if possible 
without sacrificing the interests of my beloved and 
my most creditable daughter.' And then : ' Merely 
confessing that I have risen from the ranks is nothing. 
I have made no secret of it. Yes. I remember 
distinctly informing Leicester himself of the fact.' 
But it had been far better for Mr. Bryant if he had 
admitted to himself candidly that he was very sore 
about his origin ; that he was put out with his wife 
because she could not so successfully conceal her low 
birth as could he ; that, in fact to establish incon- 



276 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

testably his position as a gentleman was the very 
summit of his ambition. 



CHAPTEE IV 

' You must know, John,' said Sir Vincent, angrily, 
' that it is preposterous in you to tamper with any 
one of my letters.' Nevertheless he had presently 
to appeal to John for an explanation of N'annie's 
poor little note. John told of the sign and the 
wonder and the holy man with great unction, and I 
think expected his master to fall on his knees then 
and there in holy awe. The effect upon Vincent 
was different however. He laughed heartily ; then 
sent a message to Tanswick, and himself galloped 
off towards the village, drawing bridle first at Dr. 
Verrill's. 

' Always delighted to see you, sir,' said the little 
man, who, having lately adopted a theory that eating 
and exercise should be simultaneous, was marching 
up and down his garden, his sister by his side, each 
with a bowl of odoriferous food in one hand and a 
spoon in the other. They did not offer to pause for 
conversation, so Vincent had to join this peripa- 
tetic society, and to step out too, for the Verrills 
were noted for their quick footfall. 'You have 



BASCIANTE 277 

learnt Latin since I have, Sir Vincent ; I shall be 
glad to submit to your criticism a passage, obviously 
corrupt, in an early horticultural author ' 

' I know nothing of horticultural Latin,' in- 
terrupted Vincent ; ' what is all this about Alick 
Handle ? ' 

' Alick Eandle,' said the doctor, ' is the most 
valuable subject for experiment. This will be the 
fifth letter I have written about him to the London 
Medical Journal ! 

' Brother,' said Miss Verrill, ' I consider you 
have been premature. Alick Eandle may die 
to-night.' 

' Then I can write a sixth letter to-morrow,' said 
the doctor, his mouth full of cabbage. 

' Have you given him an emetic ? ' suggested 
Vincent, laughing. 

' No ; the news did not reach me till too late. 
Otherwise he might have taken a decoction of that 
red agaric. It is the most efficacious emetic I know. 
But I daresay it would not have answered. Alick 
is not a good subject for emetics.' 

' May I ask what you have done for him ? ' 

' Nothing. A man who can swallow that per- 
nicious drug and not be a corpse in ten minutes, is 
best left to the doctoring of nature.' 

Vincent was powerless over the man of science. 
* If you refuse to prescribe for the idiot,' he said, 



278 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

and he dies, you will have to account for it, won't 
you?' 

Dr. Verrill took out his note-book and wrote 
down : ' V. L. choleric ; eyebrows dark, straight. 
Not much reasoning power. Shaves excessively, 
but not entirely.' ' I shall not be the first martyr 
in the cause of science,' said Dr. Verrill, piously, 
putting away his memoranda : ' Sir Vincent, if you, 
or other uninstructed person go doctoring Alick, and 
he dies, I shall feel it my duty to take proceedings 
against you. Fools, Sir Vincent, fools rush in where 
angels fear to tread. But many medical men are 
not the fools they look, sir ; they give bread pills. 
I admit to having done so myself in my young and 
cowardly days.' Vincent gave it up, remounted his 
horse and rode on. 

He found Alick kneeling in the new schoolhouse, 
and about two dozen young lads and lasses watching 
him. Vincent thought the man was at his devo- 
tions, then discovered he was only adding a little 
decoration to the wall. The spectators took no 
notice of Sir Vincent ; but if Alick licked his brush, 
or turned his head, they nudged each other and 
said, ' Lord have mercy ! Did you ever ? ' Now 
and then Alick said a word in pursuance of a 
desultory conversation with these persons, though 
at the moment he was obviously engrossed in his 
decoratino-. 



BASCIANTE 279 

' Why, the very disciples, who was far ahead of 
us, said, " Increase our faith." Ay, they got rich 
answers, I'm thinking. Do you remember how 
Peter healed a man lame from his mother's womb, 
and had an angel come to take him out of prison ; 
and John had a vision of Christ and of the heavenly 
city such as one would go blind for all one's days 
after to see ? ' 

Vincent, after waiting for some one to pay 
attention to his presence, at last advanced. ' I want 
to speak to you, Alick. What are all these persons 
doing here ? If you come in to see after the 
cleaning or anything, 3^011 had better bring only 
those whose assistance you require.' And he turned 
the admirers out, a Little roughly. They crowded 
outside, with the obvious intention of resuming 
their stare when that interfering long chap had 
cleared off. Vincent was not unmindful of Alick's 
growth in imposingness. 

' You have wrous-ht a miracle ? ' he said, seating 
himself beside the painter. 

' By the grace of God, sir,' replied Alick. 

' I see no reason myself to think it a miracle. 
Perhaps you have not considered the hundred and 
one possible explanations of the event ? However, 
the point at present is. What effect do you intend 
tliis strange occurrence to have ? ' Alick paused to 
consider before answering this difficult question. 



28o MR. BR YANT S MISTAKE 

' I trust, sir/ he said, ' that it may lead to holi- 
ness in me and to the salvation and sanctification 
of all the people in Everwell.' 

' That is no doubt an excellent and a pious wish,' 
said Vincent, ' but I don't think those boys and 
girls I found here were thinking of holiness or 
caring twopence for salvation, whatever that means. 
They were trying to get your recipe for such an 
excellent trick as you performed this morning for 
their amusement.' 

' Sir ? ' 

' Attempts at conjuring of that sort in the hands 
of performers less skilful than yourself, will, I'm 
afraid, have disastrous results, and I must prevent 
any such playing with edged tools by every means 
in my power. So I have taken a strong measure 
against you, Alick, as you will see in a minute.' 

' Sir,' said Alick, earnestly, ' suppose you found 
you could do it yourself; that you could say to yon 
table in God's name, " Be thou removed and cast on 
the other side of the temple ; " and it obeyed, what 
would you think ? ' 

' The thing is absolutely absurd and impossible,' 
said Vincent, impatiently. 

' Sir, it will do no harm to answer the question,' 
said Alick, with a touch of his old self-doubt. 

'I certainly shouldn't think such a senseless 
exhibition had any smack of divinity in it. I 



B A SCI ANTE 281 

should not — at least I hope I should not — employ 
such a meaningless gift profanely to exalt myself 
or to make the vulgar stare.' 

' All, sir ! but if it was a signal of the power of 
God to raise the eyes of men to Him ? or if it was 
for the good of your fellow-men ' 

At this moment the door, which Vincent had 
locked, was violently assailed, and gave way in what 
to some persons seemed a miraculous manner, 
admitting a large concourse of agitated people, who 
streamed in and surrounded Alick, some standing 
on the benches, some kneeling before him and 
clasping his hands, or his knees, or his coat tails. 
To do the prophet justice, he looked a good deal 
embarrassed and annoyed. As for Sir Vincent, he 
was brushed aside like any impertinent dog or 
spider : the key to the position, however, lay with 
him, for he presently discovered at the tail of the 
procession two blank-faced constables from Tans- 
wick, whom he had himself summoned to take 
Alick in charge for attempted suicide. Sir Vincent 
entered into conversation with these men, keeping 
his eye on the culprit, that what he supposed the 
attempted rescue might not take effect. Xow, 
however, it was observed that the rabble had 
brought with them a paralysed, semi-idiotic beggar, 
who was a familiar object on the strand, and a 
recipient of superstitious affection from the fisher- 



282 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

men. He had been carried now to be healed ; for 
Alick's allusion to the lame man at the Beautiful 
gate of the Temple had been a seed dropped on a 
fruitful ground. 

' Policemen, do your duty/ said Vincent. They 
advanced timorously, looking at each other and at 
their unresisting prisoner, and at each other again, 
with growing nervousness. Alick's expressive coun- 
tenance, however, showed that the fanatic rapture 
was coming upon him. 

' Alick ! ' cried the beggar's sister, a woman of 
singularly wild and picturesque aspect ; ' oh pray ! 
And it may be thy power of God will save the 
sinful soul and the sick body ! ' 

' Come now, Alick,' said Vincent, impatiently, 
' don't encourage this folly ; we've had enough for 
one day.' Alick turned from him as from a 
messenger of Satan. 

' In the name of Jesus of Nazareth,' he cried, ' I 
bid thee to rise and walk.' The policemen dropped 
their prey like a hot potato, and the whole crowd 
fell on their knees. The pressure of the people 
straining forward was too strong for the benches, 
one of which gave way (miraculously, of course) 
with a great report like that of an earthquake ! 
The paralysed man uttered a loud shriek as of one 
falling into a fit. For a few moments he lay 
shaking and rolling ; then he, who had not walked 



BASCIANTE 283 

for years (so, at least, he said), struggled to his feet, 
and propping himself upon his sister, hobbled off 
towards the door, the whole crowd making way for 
him, and then closing behind him and following 
him out, crying, ' Praise God ! Hallelujah ! ' their 
curiosity * taking them, for a time at least, after the 
healed instead of the healer. 

' Do your duty,' repeated Yincent to the police- 
men. But they stood aside, shaking their heads. 

' He is a holy man,' said one. 

' He'll bring the house down upon us,' suggested 
the other. 

'Has the whole world gone mad?' exclaimed 
the gentleman ; ' come, Alick, I see you'll have to 
go with me.' 

Now that the excitement was over, Alick had 
turned pale with rigid and nerveless features. He 
staggered and would almost have fallen ; agitating 
Sir Vincent this time, who thought the poison was 
beginning to work. But after a moment the fanatic 
recovered. 

' Thank you, sir,' he said, leaning on the gentle- 
man's arm. ' I am a faithless servant. I am fear- 
ful at seeing the expected answer to my own 
supplication. "VVTiere is it you wish to take me, 
sir?' 

'To the police station,' answered Sir Vincent, 
drHy. 



284 MR, BRYANT S MISTAKE 



CHAPTEE V 

Vincent having seen Alick safely bestowed for the 
present, returned homewards a little disturbed in his 
mind, and feeling extremely glad that his friend 
Mr. Bryant was in Everwell to deal with this 
sudden and extraordinary heresy. There was some- 
thing most restful in the thought of theological 
sermons, temperance societies, emigration schemes, 
and penny readings. Vincent had the dimmest 
notions of such matters, but he was pleased to 
think the village was connected with a supply of 
such wholesome nourishment, and he proposed to 
turn on that tap at once. 

' How fortunate,' he thought, ' that the new 
parson was the first question to come up. Old 
Septimius would have been powerless at this crisis, 
but my faith in Bryant is unbounded.' And then : 
' How I wish I could see Nannie. She will think 
me profane, and what is worse, unkind, to have 
ordered Alick off to prison. It would be well to 
explain to her myself.' Only he hesitated about 
going to the Farm ; for he liked to get hold 
of the girl apart from her relations. Perhaps 
if he pottered about near her home he might 
meet her somewhere. Then he thought it was 



BASCIANTE 285 

not quite right somehow to be pottering about 
looking for her ; and he walked on. And then 
he came back, ridiculing any idea of impropriety 
or danger in an accidental meeting and a w^ord 
or two about Alick. And then he remembered 
that Nannie had almost forbidden him to seek 
her aoain ; and he turned a^^ain with a sisjh, and 
gave up the idea of explaining about Alick at 
all. So he wandered hither and thither over the 
moor-side, so wild and desolate and removed from 
the ordinary surroundings of men that when he 
heard the puff of a train coming along the single 
line, the sound struck him as incongruous to the 
scene, and he stood still to watch this strange 
monster, disturbant of the peace of the lonely 
land. 

Meanwhile, when the miracle was over and 
Nannie had gone home, poor Mrs. Leach had begun 
to feel great reaction after excitement. She had 
twinges of conscience, and was tearful and very 
talkative about repentance ; at the same time she 
felt an increasing desire for strong waters. 

' I believe Nannie would say it was for my health 
this time,' she moaned. ' Oh, Lord ! I can't do 
without Nan to-night. Sally, my dear, do for 
goodness' sake run up to the Farm and bid 'em send 
your brother's sweetheart back to me.' The poor 
woman could not stop crying, and she knew Nannie 



286 MR. Bryant's mistake 

would say in her firm gentle way, ' Aunt Ann, you 
must be quiet.' 

Sally, however, refused ; and at last the excited 
woman resolved to go herself and see the dear girl, 
who was to be her blessed boy's wife, please God. 
And she thought that if Nannie did not forbid, she 
would go afterwards to Tanswick, where the publi- 
can and his wife were very respectable and great 
friends of hers, and probably had not yet heard the 
great news of the miracle ; and she could get a drop 
of something to do her good without any one know- 
ing. Nannie, however, was away in the dairy, and 
Patty said it was not convenient to call her. Mrs. 
Leach was not welcome, and indeed was shown the 
door very quickly. 

But how angry was Nannie when she came in an 
hour or two later ! 

' Tanswick ? ' cried the girl ; ' did she say she had 
business at Tanswick ? Caroline, why didn't you 
keep her ? Why didn't you call me ? It is worst 
of all when she goes to Tanswick. Well, you have 
given me a walk. I must go after her and bring 
her home.' And without attending to expostulation 
she was off before prevention was possible. ' Oh, 
poor dear aunt ! ' said Nannie, running and panting. 
But she was tired enough, poor little girl, and most 
heartily wished herself in the little white sanctuary 
at home. 



B A SCI ANTE 287 



CHAPTEE VI 

' Yes, aunt, I think so. I do think so,' said Nannie, 
imploringly. ' I will talk to Alick about it. But 
it isn't safe to stand here, the line curls so, and I'm 
sure I hear a train somewhere.' 

'But, Nan,' said Mrs. Leach, who was drunk 
enough to be very argumentative, ' God who taught 
Alick to swallow the poison could do such a little 
thing as prevent a train coming up while we are 
crossing the line. If you have faith, says my 
blessed boy, who is like a holy 'postle to this 
dreadful wicked place, all drinking and lying — I 
ain't afeard of the train, Nannie. Why, the enging- 
driver can stop it hisself, so it stands to reason God 
Almighty can.' 

' AVe have had enough miracles, aunt. I don't 
like them. Please, come on.' 

' But it don't need no miracle. Nan ! AA^iy, the 
wheel might come off, or ' 

' Aunt, I tell you there is a train coming ! Oh, 
I am frightened. I am really ! ' 

Mr. Bryant, the man of leisure, was taking his 
evening walk, and thinking over all manner of un- 
pleasant things. There was a signal post near, and 
seeing the signal down, he checked his step and 



288 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

leaned idly over the hedge, listening to the advanc- 
ing puffs and watching, without thinking of it, the 
steam rising behind the trees which concealed the 
curving line. And presently he perceived two 
people standing talking on the line below — the line 
which in an instant would be traversed by the 
' insupportably advancing' steam-engine. 'Hallo! 
Hallo ! ' was on his lips as he started from his idle 
waiting, ' what idiots you country people are, to be 
sure ! ' But the alarum died upon his stiffening 
lips. For it was — oh, heavens ! — the very dangerous 
woman, the very detestable girl, whom he had just 
been wishing under the sea, annihilated, unborn. 

' Why, what an easy frighted lass you are, to be 
sure, Nan ! Now I ain't frighted one bit, and I'd 
be glad to show my blessed boy ' 

' Aunt, look at it ! Oh, the whistle ! Oh, help, 
help, some one ! Oh, we shall both be killed — 
killed ! ' 

The whistle was blown at them indeed, and still 
Mrs. Leach stood there staring stupidly the opposite 
way. Nannie ran to the bank, and then ran back 
again, screaming, poor child, and beside herself, 
seizing Mrs. Leach's hand, but powerless to move 
the heavy inertia an inch. Mr. Bryant saw they 
were going to be crushed. Perhaps a nervous horror 
seized him. Probably it was so. He tried after- 
wards himself to believe it had been so. He uttered 



B A SCI ANTE 289 

no word of warning, made no step to the rescue. 
And the train dashed on. It was too late to do 
anything now. No cry of his could be heard above 
the rattle and the roar ; no ste^D of his could out- 
strip the messenger of death. With a sudden and 
awful realisation of what he had done, he turned 
and fled — never looking back ; hearing Nannie's 
screams, confused cries and shouts, and always that 
diabolical railway screech, louder and louder with 
its note of useless warning. He ran — he hurried 
as if the winds were chasing him. He stumbled in 
the darkness, then reeled to his feet, and hurried 
on ; till he reached his home — the pretty house 
he had entered with such innocent satisfaction one 
little month ago ; where was his beautiful daughter 
wdio jumped up exclaiming at his ghastly face, and 
the low-born wife who was the cause of all his 
trouble. Emma touched his arm, and he shook her 
off as if she had been a viper. He felt a hatred 
of her enter into his soul, which he had damned in 
her service ; he wished he had loathed instead of 
loved her, given her curses, chased her away into 
infamy, led himself not into temptation above that 
he was able to bear, such as was not common to man, 
for which was provided no way of escape. 

But no one had seen Mr. Bryant, or ever learned 
that he had witnessed the occurrence on the rail- 
way. Nannie in her terror could discern nothing 
VOL. I 19 



290 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

but her motionless charge and the advancing doom ; 
and by this time Mrs. Leach had perceived the train 
herself. 

' Call out to the man to stop, Nan/ she cried ; 
' I've got a stroke like Jim Leach had. I can't 
move, Nannie ! Oh, stop it ! stop it.' 

But now came a loud, distinct shout from the 
bank above. 

' Nannie ! Fly ! Eun to the side this instant, 
darling ! Eun ! run ! ' 

Impelled by an emotion very different from Mr. 
Bryant's, an instinct which gave wings to his feet 
and thunder to his voice, — Vincent Leicester had 
also been startled from his reverie by the screech 
of the warning whistle as the train came round 
the tree -shadowed curve. He was on the Tans- 
wick side, at some distance from the level 
crossing ; but after a moment's bewildered stare 
he saw the imminent peril of the two women on 
the line, and he saw also who the women were. 
How he got down the slope on the top of which 
he had been loitering he never knew. It was a 
fearful race with the powerful and heartless monster 
of human creation. 

' Fly, Nannie, fly ! Oh, my love — my love ! ' 
But he was not surprised when Nannie, instead of 
obeying, only clung the closer to the dazed and 
terrified woman who was in her charge. And 



BASCIANTE 291 

Vincent knew that the surest safety for the girl lav 
in the rescue of the woman. Nannie would never 
forgive the man w^ho deliberately saved her and left 
her helpless companion to perish ! There was but 
a moment and the thing was done. Vincent seized 
Mrs. Leach by the arm and forced her into safety, 
and Nannie saw the deliverer and added her little 
might to his. The train whizzed past as they 
stood crushed up against the wall, Vincent with a 
grasp of Mrs. Leach's shoulder that left the mark 
of his fingers for many a day, and ISTannie now 
clinging to him and swaying with weakness. 

The engine-driver stopped his train as soon as 
he could and sent the guard to see what had hap- 
pened. So close, so fearfully close had the monster 
passed, it was impossible to believe that no harm had 
been done. But the women and their sa^dour had 
vanished; and the single line, and the narrow grass 
strip at each side, and the steps up the stone wall 
were silent and unremarkable as usual. ' Them 
crossings should be put down by law,' said the 
driver to his stoker and went on, thinking of the 
incident no further once the trembling of his hand 
had ceased. 

'Mrs. Leach, you have been drinking,' said her 
deliverer ; and bade her go home ; and looked real 
terrible at her, handing her over the stile as stiff as 
you please, with his teeth chattering like a hailstorm ; 



292 MR. BR YANl S MISTAKE 

and she wept and obeyed him right away, for ' his 
words was dreadful true, and had a sting in 'em 
like the tail of a wasp ! ' 

But Vincent remained with Nannie. The events 
of the day had been too much for her. She had 
fainted. 



CHAPTEE VII 

He kissed her to life again, there alone on the 
moor-side, the cold moon all the time watching as 
harmless a pair of lovers as ever her chaste beams 
had brightened. When Nannie o^Dened her eyes, 
she looked up into his and felt his lips on hers, to 
which some slow warmth was returning. She was 
in his arms and for a few moments her spirit was 
wrapped in a lull of great happiness, while closing 
her sweet eyes again she rested her gentle head 
against his breast. 

* Nannie ! Nannie ! ' murmured Vincent, ' don't 
be frightened, my own treasure. You are quite 
safe. All the danger is over now.' 

Nannie did not stir for a moment. Then her 
heart began to beat violently, and her full conscious- 
ness returned. ' What are you doing ? ' she cried 
suddenly, sitting up straight and throwing off his em- 
brace. ' You must not touch me like this ! Go away.' 



BASCIANTE 293 

It was a great revulsion of feeling for Vincent, 
who had forgotten everything but that he loved 
her, and that she had been restored to him out of 
imminent peril. He obeyed however, rising and 
moving back a few steps to the low wall skirting 
the line. Xannie remained sitting on the ground, 
and for a few minutes they gazed at each other 
silently out of reproachful eyes, their faces pale and 
agitated. The crisis had come suddenly, but they 
both recognised it. After a few minutes Nannie 
burst into tears. 

'I didn't think — I didn't believe you would 
have done so ! ' she said. ' How could you ? ' 

* Nannie, how could I not ? When I love you, 
and when I had thought you were going to be 
killed before my eyes ? I have done you no harm, 
JSTannie. An honest man's love never did any 
woman harm. What are you afraid of ? ' 

' I am not afraid/ said Nannie, proudly ; ' there 
is nothing you can do to me, sir ; to me. But you 
oughtn't never to have touched me when I couldn't 
speak to say, go away. And you must not talk to 
me of love.' Her voice shook. 

' If I have erred, Nannie, I ask your forgiveness. 
I am going to talk to you of love. I love you as 
my life, Nannie. I have loved you from the first 
moment I saw you. I want no love but yours.' 

' No,' said Nannie, trembling, ' you and me 



294 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

mustn't never love each other. Please, sir, I would 
rather get home now, if you will let me.' 

He raised her to her feet, and supported her 
while she stood for a moment to collect her strength. 

' Do you remember the day in the boat, Nannie?' 
said Vincent, gently, holding her hands and pressing 
them to his breast. ' I think — you love me now.' 

The girl raised her head. ' Perhaps I do,' she 
said, simply, ' I do not know. If I do, it's the more 
reason you shouldn't talk to me so.' 

' My sweet Nannie ! Oh, my darling ! Yes, 
Nannie, I may — I will — to gain you as my wife,' 
said Vincent. 

' Oh no, no,' cried the girl, ' you know I couldn't. 
Oh, let me go ! ' 

He led her homewards, one arm supporting her 
and his hand clasping hers, for she was very weak 
and could not refuse his assistance to her tottering 
steps. They were still a long way from the farm- 
house. 

' I will not take your answer now, Nannie,' said 
Vincent, presently. ' Only remember we liam 
spoken to each other of love ; and that, even if we 
wished it, we can never get back to where we were 
yesterday.' Nannie made no answer, but a little 
sob. 

After some distance, he seated her on a rock beside 
the path. She consented silently, her tearful eyes 



BASCIANTE 295 

watching the moon floating amid the torn clouds. 
Vincent stood by her side looking down upon her, his 
hand on her shoulder. At last Nannie's eyes travelled 
slowly from the heavens to his face, and rested there. 
Then Vincent took from his finger a ring which he 
always wore and gave it to her gravely. 

' I want you, Nannie,' he said, ' to keep that, till 
in a day or two I see you again and talk to you 
again of love. That ring, Nannie, was given to my 
dead father by my mother, and was a pledge 
between two brave, good people that they meant 
fairly and truly by each other. There is a word on 
it in a strange language which means Faith. It is 
one of the most sacred things I possess, Nannie. 
And dearest — dearest, I give it to you, to-night, 
as a pledge — ' he paused for a moment, seeking an 
expression which would say all he meant, but 
without startling her, ' that I love you fairly and 
truly ; and that your love, if I might gain it, would 
be always to me a priceless and a sacred treasure.' 

Nannie's thoughtful eyes still rested on his as 
she took the ring and held it a little doubtfully. 
' But it could not be ! oh, how could it be ? ' she 
said, with trembling lips. 

' I would find some way, dearest,' said Vincent, 
passionately. 

' No, no,' cried Nannie again, as if afraid to face 
the thought so dangerously sweet. But she tied 



296 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

the ring on a ribbon round her throat, hiding it 
below her dress. Then she rose again and stepped 
wearily on, Vincent beside her. 

' Please,' said N"annie, shyly, ' I haven't thanked 
you for pulling us away from the train. You saved 
our lives.' 

'And my own, [N'annie. How could I have 
survived seeing you crushed ? Darling, will you 
give me one dear kiss, at least on that pretext — 
that we were in great danger together ? ' 

She raised her lips to his simply enough. 
ISTannie had always been chary of her kisses. She 
was half frightened to feel how gladly she gave 
that one. 



CHAPTEE VIII 

' Eeflection, you may come to-morrow.' For the 
present, Vincent's only feeling was one of immense 
relief and triumph. She loved him ! She had con- 
fessed it ! She would be his ! No more attempts 
at stifling that overmastering desire ; no more use- 
less struggles against Fate ; no more propriety in 
galvanic flirtations with Georgina ; no more semi- 
criminal attempts to maintain himself in a false 
position. Eight or wrong, he had pledged himself 
now to this trusting and innocent girl ; he had 



BASCIAXTE 297 

chosen his part and would abide by it right manfully. 
As he had bidden Nannie remember, it was impos- 
sible now to get back to where they had stood yester- 
day ! And to-night, feeling so strongly how beautiful 
and how good she was, fairer and sweeter and nobler, 
it seemed, than any woman he had known, Vincent 
felt ashamed of his hesitation, ashamed that love's 
confession had burst from him half involuntarily at 
the last, instead of having been his deliberate pur- 
pose from the first moment of his passion. Diffi- 
culties ? what were they ? Man was invented to 
overcome difficulties ! Difficulty becomes delight 
when the guerdon to be gained is of priceless value. 
And to-night — to-night — with her pure kiss on his 
lips, the echo of her sweet voice in his ears, the 
heaven of her starry eyes in his memory, — to-night 
when she had lain unconscious in his arms and had 
awaked to life and to love in his embrace, while the 
soft summer airs wrapped them round and the 
distant waves made nature's music, and the chaste 
Diana who had loved the shepherd bathed them in 
her liquid glory, it was not possible for the lover to 
see one defect in the maid he loved. She was pure, 
she was delicate ; brave and resolute and strong. 
And she was beautiful as the sea and the stars, as 
the sunlit clouds, as the soft hush of gentle-footed 
evening ; beautiful as a young man's dream, as the 
wave-born goddess, who lays a spell on the hearts 
VOL. 1 19a 



298 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

of men ; as Eve in the garden of Paradise. And 
she loved him. She would certainly be his. There 
was no room for thought beyond desire and exulta- 
tion in the sparkling glow of Hope. 

' Reflection, you may come to-morrow.' 



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